Uni­ver­si­ties’ provin­cial ice ri­valry turns ugly

Sus­pen­sions likely com­ing after play­ers on Huskies and Cougars en­gage in brawl

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - DAR­REN ZARY [email protected]­media.com

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.

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