The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team finished the regular season in third place with 51 points — not enough to clinch a first-round bye, but good enough to host a best-of-three quarter-final series with the UBC Thunderbirds.
“It’s really fun to play here with a big crowd and everything,” said goaltender Jessica Vance. “I think it just gives you that kind of extra boost of energy. Yeah, it’s pretty fun to play here.”
“[We have] a lot of confidence. I mean, we play real well in this rink,” said head coach Steve Kook .
“It’s nice to be at home and get into a regular routine.”
Their 51 points were 15 clear of sixth-placed UBC, but despite the large gap in the standings between the two squads, the Huskies won’t take the Thunderbirds lightly.
“B.C. swept us here in the regular season,” Kook said. “They finished sixth, we finished third. There’s a big point difference, but it’s completely different here [in the playoffs].”
“B.C. has never been a weak team; they’ve always been tough to play. So I think we’ll never take them lightly,” Vance agreed.
“We know it’s going to be a tough battle, but I think we’re excited to start our playoff run.”
Although their four-game season series featured tight, low scoring contests, the Huskies expect a free-flowing offensive series.
“When we play B.C. it’s probably a little bit more open, and that’s something that we’ve got to control,” Kook said.
“They’re a good offensive team, and when we give them chances they’re opportunistic. So we’ve got to manage the puck — that’s our focus this weekend.”
While the Huskies are backstopped by all-time Canada West save percentage leader Jessica Vance, the Thunderbirds have another of the league’s top goalies in Tory Micklash.
The team’s philosophy on offence for UBC and Micklash is easy: keep things simple.
“We’re guilty sometimes of holding on too long. So, I mean, our focus in the second half was that we set the pace, and we set the shots early,” Kook said.
“We think that if the puck is on Micklash and there’s a rebound, we think we can win those, that’s what we think we’re good at. So you can expect us to shoot lots and early.”
This upcoming series marks the third post-season battle between the two schools in the last four years. Saskatchewan and UBC have split the head-to-head with the home team coming away victorious in each instance.
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