SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Huskies hit the ice tonight after a 13 day layoff which saw them fall from 2nd in Canada West into a tie for 4th with UBC.
The Huskies will welcome the surging Calgary Dinos into Rutherford tonight who are coming off a weekend sweep of the league leading Alberta Golden Bears.
I'll be taking in this one from Rutherford tonight and will provide updates via Twitter for you so you can follow along with the game at Twitter.com/DarrenDupont.
Here's tonight's game story courtesy of this morning's Star Phoenix:
Walker Wintoneak and Derek Hulak won't be feeding each other the puck this weekend as they were accustomed to doing with the Saskatoon Blades.
Trash talk is likely another story. Been there, done that.
Just for old time's sake, Chris Durand, Ryan Funk and Michael Kaye -other former Blades on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey team -will add their tuition's worth when Wintoneak comes to town tonight as the newest member of the Calgary Dinos.
"It'll be interesting," said Wintoneak. "It'll be an ex-Blades alumni game pretty much. It'll be fun.
"I've been talking to Hulak throughout most of the year. We talk back and forth. No (trash) yet, but there definitely will be -both ways."
Saskatchewan (11-7-0) plays host to Calgary (11-6-2) in a Canada West conference series. Game time is 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday at Rutherford Rink.
Despite playing just five games since joining the Dinos after Christmas, Wintoneak has four goals and five assists for nine points.
"I'm doing OK," he said of his instant success in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. "I just had help from playing down south in the Central League. I was on the ice for pretty much all of December. The (CIS) guys were off since the end of November. The extra three weeks helped."
Hulak has one goal and two assists for three points in four games since joining the Dogs at Christmas.
"It's going to be a little different," Hulak said when asked about playing against his former Blades linemate. "We did it a little bit in the Central League, but it's always weird when you play against somebody you used to play with. You think about it after the game or a little bit during the day, but come game time, you're playing another team and you've got no friends on the ice.
"He's definitely a guy we've got to key on. He's a tremendous player. He's always been underrated. I had the privilege of not only playing with him, but also on the same line as him. I've got nothing but great things to say about the guy. He's a great guy, one of my best friends, and he's a heck of a hockey player."
Both players were toiling in minor pro this season, but neither had an American Hockey League contract and the financial security that goes with it. So they elected to make use of the generous Western Hockey League scholarship program at the CIS level.
Wintoneak, a native of Thunder Bay, Ont., chose Calgary over both his former hometown and his more recent town, Saskatoon.
"Lakehead (University in Thunder Bay) was interested because, obviously, I'm from there; I was thinking about Saskatoon since I had been playing junior there," said Wintoneak. "But I've got a lot of friends out (in Calgary). I like the program. They've got Cory Cross and Brad Isbister as assistant coaches and with their help and (head coach) Mark (Howell) just wanted to let
me know that this wasn't the end of my career, that you can always move on. I thought they'd maybe be the best for me to move on to the next level after my (CIS) career is done."
Howell says Wintoneak's addition has been huge, as has Aaron Richards, a former Dinos captain who has been cleared to play the second half.
"It's added a lot of depth," Howell said. "We had the (Reid) Jorgensen line with (Brock) Nixon and (Torrie) Wheat to start the year. I think teams could really key on those guys. This gives us two (scoring lines), but our third line has more opportunities to generate offence, too."
While a two-game sweep of league leading Alberta Golden Bears was big for Calgary last weekend, this weekend "could be just as big or even more because if we don't keep it up, last weekend becomes a waste pretty fast," said Wintoneak.
"UBC is right on everybody's tails, trying to get in. Same with Lethbridge. This weekend will be pretty big for both teams."
Funk, a rookie defenceman with the U of S, relishes the chance to play against an old teammate.
"I haven't talked to (Wintoneak) and I'm not sure if Derek has, but I wouldn't be surprised if he has," said Funk. "It'll be interesting. It'll be fun.
"That's the great thing about hockey. You can be great friends off the ice, but on the ice you have that respect for each other, but you still battle hard against each other."
Said Hulak: "It's a huge weekend. We all realize that. We just want to accept whatever roles we have and do whatever we can to help the team win."
For Wintoneak, this won't be his first time at Rutherford.
"I went last year actually to watch a game," he said.
Probably with Hulak.
CANADA GETS WIN
Canada opened with a 2-1 shootout victory over Finland on Thursday at the Winter Universiade women's hockey competition in Erzurum, Turkey.
Finland scored first and held the lead until Marieve Provost of the University of Moncton scored with one minute and 29 seconds to play in the third period. In the shootout, University of Western Ontario's Ellie Seedhouse scored on Canada's fifth attempt.
Breanne George of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies is playing with Canada.
Canada plays Slovakia today.
See you at the rink tonight!