Saskatchewan Huskies win national awards, going for CIS gold

Two weeks after winning their first Canada West title, the awards keep rolling in for the University of Saskatchewan's women's hockey team.

Women's hockey and women's basketball teams compete for CIS championships this weekend

Kaitlin Willoughby was named CIS Rookie of the Year, the first University of Saskatchewan player to win the award. (Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics)

Despite having four more years of eligibility, it will be very hard for Kaitlin Willoughby to top her first year in university hockey.

First, the Prince Albert-product was named Canada West Rookie of the Year. A few days later, she scored the Canada West championship-winning goal in double overtime to beat the University of Regina 2-1 in Saskatoon.

Now, Willoughby has been named the CIS Rookie of the Year, the first University of Saskatchewan women's hockey player to receive the honour.

"It's nice to be rewarded with hard work, but I definitely couldn't have done it without my teammates and my coaches, and especially (Huskies' captain) Cami (Wooster). She's definitely helped me put a lot of pucks in the net," Willoughby said.

"Having a good first year is nice because it kind of gives me confidence for the next years to come and I'm really excited for that."

Wooster was named a second team all-Canadian.

The hockey team's head coach, Steve Kook, will also return to Saskatoon with a major award. Currently in his ninth year at the University of Saskatchewan, Kook is this year's CIS Coach of the Year.

Huskies' head coach Steve Kook named CIS Coach of the Year. (Peter Mills/CBC)

It's the second time Kook has won the national award.

Kook led his team to a lot of firsts, including a program best 18-4-6 record and their first-ever home playoff berth. 

"Steve is well-deserving of this outstanding honour," U of S athletic director Basil Hughton said in a news release. "He has worked extremely hard this year, adding new dimensions to growing as a coach to work with a young team. This award and historic season his team has accomplished is evidence that his commitment has paid dividends."

Kook, Willoughby face tough test in Game 1

The Huskies are now in Fredericton, New Brunswick to compete for their first national championship. It's the first time the U of S has advanced to the national championship tournament since 2004.

The CIS championship, hosted by St. Thomas University, gets underway on Thursday. The No. 4-ranked Huskies take on the No. 1-ranked and defending champion University of Montreal at 4 p.m. CST.

"We're going to be the low man on the totem poll as far as experience," Kook said. "I don't want to say it's one-and-done, but I think it's one and pretty tight after that."

All of the games will be broadcast live on the CIS website.

Huskies' women's basketball team hoping for first national title

While the men's basketball team fell short in the national championship last weekend, the women are getting ready to make a run at their first CIS banner.

Huskies forward Dalyce Emmerson. (Josh Schaefer/Huskies Athletics)
One week after winning just their third Canada West title, the Huskies are in Windsor this weekend looking to capture the elusive Bronze Baby trophy.

Lisa Thomaidis, Huskies' women's basketball head coach, said they're not the favourites to win, but she believes they have the tools to win.

"You have to be composed and you have to be confident and you have to just believe that what you've done and how you've prepared is going to be enough,"  Thomaidis said. "I think this group has shown that over the course of the season. They really don't get rattled."

The Huskies already proved they can win as underdogs in the playoffs. They beat the University of Regina Cougars, who had only lost twice all season, in the Canada West Final Four last weekend.

A big reason for the team's success is third-year forward Dalyce Emmerson. The Prince Albert product was recently named Canada West MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

"We know we have just as good of a chance as anyone to win this weekend," Emmerson said. "So it's super exciting for us to know that we could go and bring home the Bronze Baby trophy and be number one in the country."

The No. 1-ranked and host University of Windsor are the team to beat. Windsor has won the Bronze Baby two straight seasons, including last season in Regina over the Cougars. 
Emmerson and the No. 3-ranked Huskies play their first game on Friday against No. 6-ranked Queen's University at 1 p.m. CST.