Huskies aim to fill holes in roster with new recruits
On paper, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team needed some new pieces to rebuild — or re-load, as head coach Dave Adolph likes to say.
The program graduated U Sports top goaltender Jordon Cooke, defencemen Kendall McFaull, Connor Cox, Jordan Fransoo and Mackenzie Johnston, plus forwards Josh Roach and John Lawrence.
“I’ve listened to some of the prognosticators out there,” Adolph said this week, “and we’ve lost probably the best goalie in the country and probably the top captain in the country. We lost probably the best junior A (product) and first team all-star in Josh Roach. Connor Cox is a tremendous power play guy. Johnny Lawrence was probably our most stable forward the five years he was here.
“So we should finish seventh, but I don’t think we will.”
The Hockey Dogs have added seven new recruits and a redshirt from last season to fill the holes.
Travis Child, formerly of the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings, joins holdovers Taran Kozun and backup Brett Lewchuk in net.
On the back end, newcomers include former Saskatoon Blades captain Evan Fiala (Clavet), Kelowna Rockets assistant captain Gordie Ballhorn ( Wetaskiwin, Alta.), former Prince George Cougar and Ontario Hockey League London Knight Shane Collins (Rosetown) and 2017-18 redshirt Kendall Fransoo (Battlefords) from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Battlefords North Stars. They join returnees Jesse Forsberg, Colby Harmsworth, Tanner Lishchynsky and Sam Ruopp. Forsberg, who is entering his fifth and final season at the U of S, is the Huskies’ new captain.
“We lost four defencemen and we had one redshirt from last season in Kendall Fransoo and we added three, so we have four new guys coming in,” noted Adolph, whose team is in Regina this weekend for a pair of exhibition games Friday against the University of Regina Cougars and Saturday against the University of Manitoba Bisons.
Up front, among the new faces is blue-chip recruit Donovan Neuls from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. Neuls, a Grenfell product, was an assistant captain in Seattle. He had 22 goals and 54 assists for 76 points in 71 regular-season games during the 2017-18 season.
Neuls, who played four seasons in the WHL, is expected to fill the void left by Lawrence.
Former top-tier SJHLers Layne
Young and Dakota Boutin also join the Huskies. Young, who was the top player in the SJHL last season as captain of the Battlefords North Stars, had his pick of NCAA Division One schools but chose to stay close to home.
Young, a native of Frenchman Butte, had 107 points (35 goals and 72 assists) in 57 regular-season games in 2017-18.
Boutin, who had an NCAA Division One scholarship lined up at Northern Michigan University, is a former Telus Cup national championship hero who played for the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs before finishing his junior A career with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.
Boutin had three consecutive 20goal seasons in the junior A ranks.
Along with the newcomers, the Hockey Dogs are hoping to welcome back former WHL Red Deer Rebel Wyatt Johnson into the lineup after an injury-shortened season.
Kohl Bauml, Logan McVeigh, Michael Sofillas and Levi Cable also return to the team along with fellow forwards Jordan Tkatch, Collin Shirley, Connor Gay, Carter Folk, Carson Stadnyk, Jaimen Yakubowski, Andrew Johnson, Parker Thomas and Alex Forsberg.
The Huskies are carrying a roster of 28 players — three goalies, eight defencemen and 17 forwards — into the pre-season.
Saskatchewan will play host to a pair of exhibition games next weekend, Sept. 22-23, against the University of Calgary Dinos and York University Lions. Game-time is 3 p.m. Saturday against the Dinos and 6 p.m. Sunday against the Lions.
Both of those games will be played at Rutherford Rink to give the Doghouse a final send-off.
The U of S Huskies are set to play their first two home games of the Canada West conference regular season on Friday Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13 at the new Merlis Belsher Place against the Calgary Dinos.