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Huskies, Cougars/Rams team up for U-Prairie Challenge

Saskatchewan’s two provincial powerhouses will go head-to-head in a new year-long competition this season showcasing the best in university athletics and reigniting a regional rivalry with national implications.

By James Shewaga

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) Huskies and University of Regina (U of R) Cougars/Rams teams will face off in the first U-Prairie Challenge, a celebration and competition spotlighting the province’s two U Sports athletic programs and the elite student-athletes that are the pride of both institutions. While provincial bragging rights are on the line, the initiative also signals a new partnership between the programs, as USask and U of R team up to bring new exposure to university athletics and generate new fans and followers, supporters and sponsors.

“This Challenge will offer new opportunities to connect, compete, and celebrate, building pride in our programs and opening the door to new fans and new supporters, as we highlight and spotlight one of the best rivalries in the country,” said USask President Peter Stoicheff. “Like the Cougars and Rams, our Huskie student-athletes are outstanding players and also wonderful ambassadors for our university every time they put on a jersey. We are extremely proud of their efforts, on the field and the track, in the gymnasium and the arena, and in our classrooms, labs and research facilities.”

The U-Prairie Challenge begins with a women’s soccer match in Saskatoon on Sept. 2. The new point-based competition will hold its official kickoff event this year on Football Day in Saskatchewan on Saturday, Sept. 17 when the Huskies and Rams battle at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. The competition will conclude with the Huskies and Cougars clashing in a women’s hockey season finale at Saskatoon's Merlis Belsher Place on Saturday, Feb. 4. In all, 18 games in five team sports will be played between the two provincial rivals in the 2022/23 Canada West conference season, featuring football, hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball.

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Quarterback Mason Nyhus and the Huskies will clash with the Cougars on September 17 to kick off the new U Prairie Challenge between the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina. (Photo: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics/GetMyPhoto.ca)

“We are excited to kick off the U-Prairie Challenge in partnership with the University of Regina,” said Huskie Athletics Chief Athletics Officer Shannon Chinn. “Huskie Athletics enjoyed one of its most successful years in 2021-22, and we are thrilled to showcase our Huskie programs and incredible student-athletes in this new competition. The U-Prairie Challenge will re-ignite our provincial rivalry with each competition being of paramount importance. This is a very exciting time for the Huskies as we connect with our fans and showcase the true ‘Power of the Pack’ throughout the province.”

The modern era of official league competition between the two universities goes back to 1968. Over those past 54 years, the rivalry between USask and the U of R has become one of the best in the country, with both programs producing national champions in multiple sports, including 27 national titles won by Huskie teams, as well as 127 Canada West conference championships. The Huskies’ last national championship title was won by USask’s women’s basketball team in 2020, just prior to the pandemic, while the Cougars’ most recent of five national championship titles came in 2010 when U of R’s women’s curling foursome found golden glory.

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USask’s Carly Ahlstrom will be a driving force in the Huskies’ new season-long head-to-head competition with their provincial rivals, the U of R Cougars. (Photo: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics/GetMyPhoto.ca)

The new U-Prairie Challenge is designed to build the tradition and brand of both athletic programs and create an identity for the institutional rivalry between USask and U of R. In addition to shining the sports spotlight on the elite athletes representing both universities, the new competition will also feature an enhanced experience for fans, with the opening and closing games also including concerts and other entertainment and activities to boost attendance and game-day excitement and to create new crossover marketing sponsorship potential.

The last meeting between the Huskies and Cougars provided another thrilling chapter in this storied rivalry, with the Huskies earning a hard-fought 97-93 overtime victory over their provincial rivals in the Canada West men's basketball bronze medal game on March 19, setting the stage for their run to the U Sports national championship final. The rivalry resumes in Regina where the Rams will host the Huskies on Sept. 17, this time on the football field in the official kickoff event of the U Prairie Challenge.

“We here with Huskie Football are excited to compete alongside our other Huskie Athletics teams against our provincial rivals,” said Huskies head coach Scott Flory, who guided his team all the way to the national championship game last season before falling 27-21 to the Western Mustangs in the 56th Vanier Cup. “Saskatchewan is football country and both programs are highly respected nationwide. We have an intense rivalry and every time we play, it’s a competitive and entertaining football game. We can’t wait for September 17th!”