Perfect penalty kill leads Huskies to victory

Saturday’s game between the Huskies and Jr. Canucks began the same way any game would begin between two teams that have already played each other four times, physically. Both teams were taking any opportunity they could to be physical, as bodies were flying all over the North Peace Arena.

As the physical game began to unfold in the first, the Huskies would strike first, as rookie forward Blair Karasiuk opened the scoring at 13:05 of the first period. After Cole Calliou and Jordan Gies played pass entering the Jr. Canucks’ zone, Karasiuk received the puck just outside the left face-off circle. He skated in with good pace, took a look up and snapped the puck hard at the opposite corner, beating Kaden Bouchard high glove for the 1-0 lead.

Getting the start in net for the Huskies was Travis Mclean, who stopped all eight shots he faced in the first period, including a breakaway, followed by a mad scramble for the rebound with 45 seconds left in the opening frame.

The second began with the Huskies on the penalty kill, which they killed perfectly to maintain the 1-0 lead, even creating some short handed scoring chances, thanks to the hard work of Kole Norris.

However, it would not be all positives for Fort St. John in the second. The team and league’s leading scorer, Robbie Sidhu left the game midway through the second period and did not return for the remainder of Saturday’s game.

Following the game, Huskies' bench boss Gary Alexander said Sidhu didn’t fell well entering the game and decided to sit out for the remainder for precautionary reasons. Alexander stressed Sidhu was fine and would be back for the second half of the season.

The second also provided some goal scoring for both teams, the first being netted by Dawson Creek. The Jr. Canucks cycled the puck well in the Huskies zone, which set up a strong point shot by defenseman Mitchell Palfi, who blasted the puck passed a screened Mclean. The Jr. Canucks' first and only goal of the game was also set up by former Husky, Connor Rose.

The Huskies would re-take the lead before the conclusion of the second, as Karasiuk put home his second of the game, this one coming short-handed. The puck found number 21’s stick after a rebound was created by a booming point shot, which the rookie slipped passed the Dawson Creek net minder. Karasiuk’s second would go on to be the eventual game-winning-goal.

Although the second period did include some drama, as after a rebound was created in front of the Fort St. John net, mayhem ensued between Dawson Creek attempting to score and the Huskies trying to clear the puck. The puck was eventually put passed Mclean, who was visually upset, as his goalie mask had been knocked off in the process.

After a quick meeting, the referees deemed the play dead before the puck went in, as the rule states that if a goalie loses his helmet during a play, that play must immediately be whistled dead. The no-goal preserved the Huskies’ 2-1 lead.

Following the game, Dawson Creek’s head coach spoke about the disallowed goal which prevented his team from tying the game, saying that the refs made the correct call as the goalie’s helmet did in fact pop off before the goal was scored, prompting the play to be blown dead.

The third period was a nail biter for Huskies fans. Leading 2-1, the Huskies were forced to put their so far stellar penalty kill to the test, killing off three penalties in the final frame, including a five-on-three in the final 5 minutes.

Once again, the Huskies penalty kill would prove to be the difference, as it not only prevented a goal from being scored by Dawson Creek, but produced a goal for Fort St. John.

After exiting the penalty box, rookie defenseman Dave Marshell received the puck and used his body well to maintain possession as he entered the Jr. Canucks' zone. With Marshell fighting off two defenders, Brighton Campbell received the puck and showed some great skill, toe-dragging the puck around a Dawson Creek defender and scoring short side, high glove for another short handed goal for Fort St. John. Campbell’s short handed marker would make the game 3-1, which would be the final score of the evening’s game.

Following the game, Huskies head Coach Gary Alexander said he was pleased with the effort his team displayed, especially with regards to how they plugged up their defensive zone. He also gave praise to the rookie with a two-goal performance, Blair Karasiuk, saying “he’s got a good shot, with lots of other positive attributes to his game. He’s extremely coachable and has been developing well for us.”

The Huskies' penalty kill was on fire Saturday night, killing all four penalties thrown its way, while also producing two goals for the Huskies, one being the game winner. The win was also the team’s fifth straight over Dawson Creek.  

The Huskies will now take a holiday break from NWJHL hockey, but will be on the ice Sunday, Dec.18 for their Skate with the Huskies event, taking place at the North Peace Arena from 1-3 p.m. Their first game back will be in Fort St. John on Friday, Jan.6 when they host the Sexsmith Vipers. 

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