NPH CIS Team Previews: Saskatchewan Huskies
What can the Saskatchewan Huskies do for an encore, a season after winning the CIS consolation final?
Head coach: Barry Rawlyk
Record in 2014: 15-5 (First in Pioneer division of Canada West Conference)
Playoffs: CIS Consolation winner; Canada West silver
Points scored per game: 83.3
Points allowed per game: 76.4
Key players: Evan Ostertag, Matt Forbes, Jauquin Bennett-Boire, Chan De Ciman
Key losses: Dadrian Collins, Ben Baker, Connor Burns, Andrew Henry
Surely, whoever the skeptics were when the Saskatchewan Huskies opened last season 4-4 while holding on to a Top 10 spot, had been proven wrong by the time Barry Rawlyk’s team finished 15-5, won the silver in the Canada West playoffs and, eventually, the CIS consolation final. “The first half of our schedule last year was extremely difficult,” Rawlyk tells NPH. “Depending on who you get and what point of the season you get them, and whether it’s home or away, it significantly impacts your chances of success.” This season, two weekend trips away from home, at Victoria and at Calgary, could determine the extent of the Huskies’ excellence.
Key games: VS UBC Thunderbirds, Nov. 20 and 21
at Calgary Dinos, Jan. 8 and 9
It’s important to win in the Canada West, but also important is when those wins come.
Take the Saskatchewan Huskies, for example: they beat the Victoria Vikes twice during the regular season, then lost in the conference championship game and needed an at-large bid to make the CIS Final 8. There, they were seeded No. 8, lost to Carleton… then beat Dalhousie and Windsor and won the consolation final. “Anyone who kind of thought that we didn’t deserve to be in at the Nationals,” head coach Barry Rawlyk says, “(winning the consolation) dispelled some of that line of thought.”
But that was last season and 2015-16 is a new one—and the Huskies have looked good so far. “It’s been an interesting preseason across the country,” Rawlyk says. “Granted, they’re October games and October games don’t mean much in March.” But in early November? They’re the only things we have, and beating Carleton and Windsor is still good.
Dadrian Collins, Ben Baker, Connor Burns and Andrew Henry all have graduated. “Having said that, we’ve got some returning pieces that I think are important to us,” the head coach says. “And we’ve added some people too.” Welcome to Saskatchewan: out with the old, in with the new, and still the wins come.
Rawlyk wants his team to cut down on turnovers. “I’m never one to compare the next to the last, or this to that. Each one is a different team and a different experience,” he says. Only the expectations remain the same: “that we’re gonna be very competitive in Canada West,” Rawlyk says, “and hopefully on the national level.”