The last Canada West men's hockey update of 2009 consists of one conference series split, one non-conference sweep of a ranked team, and another non-conference game between two Saskatchewan teams.
Calgary @ UBC
In the lone Canada West conference series of the weekend, and the last of 2009, the Calgary Dinos and UBC Thunderbirds split a pair of games in Vancouver. Friday night the home side got a terrific performance from third-year forward Tyler Ruel who netted a hat trick and an assist, to lift the T-Birds to a 5-2 win. Matthew Schneider was also impressive in the victory for the T-Birds with a goal and three assists, and was +4 on the night. Jeff Weber was pulled in goal for Calgary after surrendering three goals on only eight shots in just over 18 minutes of service. Looking for the split, the Dinos took a three goal lead heading into the third period of Saturday night's affair, and when the final buzzer went, Calgary skated away with a 4-1 win. Brett O'Malley scored the Dinos first two markers, his fourth and fifth of the season, while Dustin Butler who came into Friday night's contest in relief of Weber, made 22 saves on 23 shots to pick up his eighth win of the season.
The series marked the official conclusion of the Canada West's first half of conference play, as conference action will resume in the new year. A full slate of action gets underway January 8 with a trio of series: Manitoba @ Lethbridge, Regina @ UBC, and Alberta/Calgary in a home-and-home series. Saskatchewan will be idle in the first conference weekend of 2010.
Saskatchewan @ #8 Lakehead
The Saskatchwan Huskies look like they were the team we thought they were entering the season. After a dismal start to the 2009-10 campaign, the Huskies went into Thunder Bay this past weekend and took a pair of non-conference games from the Lakehead Thunderwolves to wrap up the first half of their season. The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 Friday night lead before goals from Jordan Smith and Scott Dobben tied the score at 2-2 in the second. It was all Saskatchewan from there, however, as Steven Gillen scored three goals from the midway point of the second period on, including an empty-netter to lift Saskatchewan to a 5-2 win. In the second half of the weekend double-header, Saskatchewan once again spotted themselves a 2-0 lead to only see Lakehead come back. The T-Wolves scored three in the second, with goals from Kris Hogg, Jordan Smith and Mark Soares. Saskatchewan countered in the second with a goal from Kyle Bortis, his second of the night, as the game went into the third all-square at 3-3. The final frame, and overtime solved nothing, with the game needing a shootout to determine a winner. Steven Gillen scored the only goal of the shootout, as the Huskies picked up the sweep. The wins were Saskatchewan's second and third of the season over a ranked opponent, with the previous victory over a top-10 team coming back on November 21 in a 3-2 shootout win over the then-#6 ranked Manitoba Bisons.
The wins were a major confidence boost for the Sled Dogs, as they end the first half of the season on a major high winning 10 of their last 12 games overall, and eight of their final 10 conference games. Saskatchewan should find themselves making their top-10 debut in the new year after the victories over Lakehead, and coupled with their strong finish to the first half, this sweep should get the Huskies some national attention. All signs point to a top 10 showdown January 22-23 between Alberta and Saskatchewan in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan opens the second half against Regina January 16-17 in a home-and-home).
As Neate pointed out in the Top 10 tracker, Lakehead could take a fall in the rankings come January depending on how their December 28-29 series against Manitoba plays out.
Regina @ Briercrest College
The Regina Cougars played their final game of 2009 in Strasbourg, Saskatchewan against Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference opponent Briercrest College on December 4. The Queen City squad came away with a 5-2 win over the ACAC's lone Saskatchewan side to wrap-up a disappointing first half. The Cougars' next action won't come until the new year when they travel to Calgary to take part in the SAIT Challenge Cup, where they'll take on the defending ACAC champion SAIT, and fellow Canada West team Lethbridge.