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Yukon Territories

‘Chills,’ spills and thrills: Fan-favourite Ukraine falls 2-0 to host Huskies

“When they came out with the Ukrainian national anthem and everything, I got goosebumps. The atmosphere here alone was something very special.”

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Huskies 2, Ukraine 0

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Once, and only once, the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies didn’t really feel like the home team, despite playing on their own home ice.

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That’s because a pro-Ukrainian crowd – standing room only at Merlis Belsher Place – came to cheer on Friday’s traveling Ukraine U25 national team, with most of those Ukrainian players having flown in from Ukraine just days earlier.

“We were the away team on home ice,” quipped Jared Dmytriv, the Huskies’ assistant captain, whose team nonetheless clinched a 2-0 victory over the visiting Ukraine team in front of a packed dog house of 2,375 fans, who made the first stop of the four attended game Can’t Stop Hockey Tour of Western Canada.

“That’s good. Having these guys here is very special to them and means a lot to them.”

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When the Ukrainian national anthem was played before the game, Dmytriv got goosebumps.

It was an emotional moment for Dmytriv, whose father is of Ukrainian descent, and for everyone else in the crowd with Ukrainian roots or heritage.

“It’s a special game and there was a great turnout tonight,” said Dmyitriw. “Having this game here and having the support they had tonight from the Ukrainian community and from everyone here in Saskatoon has been amazing.

“You know, when they came out with the Ukrainian national anthem and everything, I got goosebumps. The atmosphere here alone was something very special.”

The Can’t Stop Hockey Tour is both a humanitarian fundraiser for Ukraine and a preparation for Ukrainians for the upcoming FISU Universiade Winter Games in New York.

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“We were probably the number one enemy out there today,” chuckled U of S head coach Brandin Cote. “But I thought overall it turned out really good. The audience was great and again there is something bigger than the game. It was also good for us to shake off some of the rust I think. They played really hard. It was good. It was a well-contested game.”

Dawson Holt and Carter Stebbings scored first-half goals for the Huskies, who beat Ukraine 27-20.

Dmytro Kubrytskyi made 25 saves for Ukraine, who ended 3-0 on the power play. Saskatchewan was 0-to-1.

“Nice for us ahead of the Universiade,” said Vadym Mazur, the Ukraine team’s captain, who hails from Kyiv and admittedly doesn’t speak that much English.

“Good speed (on the ice). This level is not like in Ukraine. This speed (is of higher caliber). This ice rink is very good for us.”

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Mazur hailed the support of the Saskatchewan community, which includes a number of Ukrainians who have settled here over the past year.

“It’s very good,” Mazur said. “It’s so nice to play here. Everybody said: ‘Oh, Ukraine.’ It is very good. Better than now in (war-torn) Ukraine.

“Of course we’re getting better. We only have three days in Canada, from Kyiv to Poland we fly maybe two days. It was very difficult for us.”

Saskatchewan used all three of its goalies — Roddy Ross, Jordan Kooy and Declan Hobbs — as they shared the 20-save shutout.

“I wanted to get all three in just because it’s an event, right, something they’re going to remember and then of course we need Dec ready to play because Roddy’s going to FISUs,” Cote said. “I thought it would be a no-brainer to get them all in.”

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DOG TALES: Dmytriw and Ross will also play at the upcoming FISU World Universiade Winter Games in upstate New York, where they will represent Canada… Saskatchewan lost centerman Liam Keeler to an upper-body injury in the second period. He didn’t come back. “It sucks — that’s the risk you take playing a game that’s not real in that way, but at the end of the day you weigh the pros and cons and it happens,” Cote said. The team was also missing Aiden Bulych and Jeff Faith… The Huskies will resume U Sports play at next weekend’s Canada West Conference in Langley, BC, where they will meet the Trinity Western University Spartans.

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