Universities’ provincial ice rivalry turns ugly
Suspensions likely coming after players on Huskies and Cougars engage in brawl
Dave Adolph played “peacekeeper” on Saturday.
He says he did his best to prevent a pre-game melee between his University of Saskatchewan Huskies and provincial rival University of Regina Cougars.
Standing at the red-line, the U of S coach called his troops to back off after members of both sides were seen chirping each other at the red-line during the pre-game warm-up.
All of this came after a line-brawl near the end of Friday’s Canada West conference game between the Huskies and Cougars in Regina, where the Dogs easily won 7-1.
The Huskies went on to win Saturday’s game 5-1.
“My role in that was peacekeeper,” Adolph said of the pre-game incident, which led to misconducts to Saskatchewan’s Wyatt Johnson and Regina’s Corwin Stevely.
The intervention did not prevent Johnson and Stevely from later squaring off, at centre ice. They dropped their gloves, unstrapped their helmets and fought, which is a rather rare occurrence in U Sports hockey as fighting majors — if the players drop their gloves — carry more severe consequences than seen in junior or pro hockey.
Johnston and Stevely now both face a suspension. Should either player engage in additional fights this season, the next suspension would lengthen dramatically.
On Friday, with 5:07 remaining, emotions escalated following a hit by Regina’s Arthur Miller that drew a charging penalty. Every player on the ice engaged in what was a musical-chair melee where punches were thrown left and right but gloves, for the most part, were not dropped. The game had 77 minutes of penalties but surprisingly only one game misconduct.
That animosity carried on into Saturday’s contest in which 96 penalty minutes were dished out. Johnson and Stevely both were assessed a fighting major, misconduct, gross misconduct and game misconduct.
“In a back-to-back, doesn’t matter if it’s the NHL or junior (hockey), it carried over,” offered Adolph, adding that he later learned that all the players knew that Saturday’s fight was going to happen through “social media” but he himself did not know.
“You never see that in college hockey, ever. Never does it carry over, not like that. It was a distraction and it’s something we don’t need in our game.”
PLAYOFF BERTH CLINCHED
The Huskies were barely into the new year when they clinched a playoff spot back on Jan. 4.
U of S is one of the first two teams in Canada’s U Sports men’s hockey to do so, along with the No. 1-ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.
Even so, Saskatchewan has the archrival University of Alberta Golden Bears hot on its heels.
The Huskies, with a 17-3-0 record and 34 points, are just one point up on the Bears, who sport a 16-3-1 record and 33 points.
Both teams have eight games remaining. Saskatchewan has four of those on home ice, where they can host a Canada West semifinal series with a top-two finish in the conference.
That said, the Huskies can ill afford any more losses this season.
Finishing first overall would translate into guaranteed homeice advantage and, in theory, a more favourable semifinal matchup with a berth into this year’s University Cup on the line.
The Canada West conference will send three teams to the national championship, including the host University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Adolph agreed all of those things are important team goals, but stressed the Huskies can’t take anything for granted as they head into “a tough stretch” in the schedule.
The Huskies’ next six games are against the so-called “blue teams” — Lethbridge, University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and Mount Royal Cougars — who have, historically, given the Huskies trouble at times.