Inbred and well fed Hockey

That low rumble you heard from the East last weekend was the sound of 1,000 pickup trucks simultaneously backfiring in the parking lot of the University of Saskatchewan’s Rutherford Agri-Dome following the Oct. 12 opening of the Canada West hockey season.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The 2001/02 hockey season is underway and our cousins from the flatlands are celebrating two unlikely victories over our beloved men’s Dinos. One shouldn’t be too angry with the Huskies as, after all, these are tough times in the grain province–adult literacy is down again and Mr. O’Flaherty’s cow is still missing somewhere in Wilson’s gulch. But at the same time, a lot is expected of the Dinos this year, so their 5-3 loss on Oct. 12 and their 6-3 defeat the following night leaves a sour taste–not unlike gasoline–in one’s mouth.

Why is this, you ask? Well, following the implosion of the 1999 and 2000 Canadian Interuniversity Sport champion University of Alberta Golden Bears program, the Canada West conference is wide open. The U of C, with a core of returning veterans, some slavering (and talented) rookies and brand-new coach Scott Atkinson, are expected to be among the best programs in the country. So chalk these matches in the heart of dust-choked Saskatoon up to a mere blip in what will otherwise be a season to remember for the boys in crimson and gold.

Friday’s season opener was a seesaw affair both literally and metaphorically. Not only did Chester’s Tools and Lumber showcase playground equipment seesaw during the intermission but, the Dinos and Huskies alternated goals all game. It took Huskies’ forward Dan Hulak’s second goal of the game late in the third followed by Jeremy "TNT" Rondeau’s empty-netter two minutes later to seal their 5-3 win.

Among the silver linings, cantankerous Dino veteran Colin Embley shone, scoring two goals and adding an assist on linemate Trevor Segstro’s second-period goal, while last season’s scoring sensation Ronnie Grimard added a pair of assists.

Saturday’s game wasn’t as close. The Dinos appeared a little flat-footed and gave up a three-goal lead early. They managed to cut the lead to one by early in third, but goals by Chris Jacobsen and Jon Barkman put the Huskies up 5-2, with 12 minutes to go. The Dino’s Darren Cain cut the lead to two, but Saskatchewan put the game away just over a minute later and the Dinos couldn’t manage a comeback. While the Dinos were grievously outshot [41-24], their performance was far better than the final score suggests.

Overall, the Dinos’ performance through both games lends credence to early season predictions that peg them at the top of their division and maybe even challenging the University of Manitoba for the overall conference lead.

The Dinos hope to validate these predictions at their home opener this Fri., Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Father David Bauer Arena. The perennial conference pushovers the University of British Columbia Thunder-birds are in town. Attendance is not mandatory, but it should be.

In the Crease:

The Dinos are still fighting the injury/illness bug. Last Monday’s practice saw only 13 players attend.

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