Saturday, 10 December 2016

Blades pull off major road upset of Pats

Jesse Shynkaruk celebrates an OT winner with his Blades teammates.
    REGINA - The stars were supposed to be lined up against the Saskatoon Blades.
    Despite playing one of their best games of the season, the Blades went into overtime locked in a 1-1 tie on Saturday against the host Regina Pats before a sellout crowd of 6,484 spectators at the Brandt Centre. The Pats entered the day tied for the overall lead in the WHL standings and were rated first in the Canadian Hockey League top ten rankings.
    The Blades began the night sitting six points back of a playoff spot.
    With the Pats being loaded with offensive talent, a three-on-three overtime session should have favoured the host side.
    Instead, the Blades got control of the puck on a gritty faceoff win in the extra session, and winger Braylon Shmyr and defenceman Libor Hajek teamed up to send overage centre Jesse Shynkaruk into the Regina zone with speed on an odd man rush. Shynkaruk blew home the winner on a wrist shot 35 seconds into the frame to give a thrilling 2-1 victory for the visitors.
Jesse Shynkaruk breaks into the offensive zone for the Blades.
    “To get the two points tonight felt amazing for the team. We know if we put that effort in each and every night we are going to win a lot of games this year. It was just huge clawing back too.”
    Early on, it seemed like things might not go the Blades way. Just 92 seconds into the contest, Pats left-winger Robbie Holmes netted his first of the season to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
    From there, the Blades found their legs, and the Pats, who were playing their sixth game in eight days, were looking a bit sluggish. Regina entered the first intermission with a 1-0 edge and a 13-12 lead in shots on goal.
    The pesky underdog Blades wouldn’t go away, which caused the home crowd to feel a little bit tense. Shynkaruk almost picked up the equalizer, but he rang the post on a backdoor feed.
Winger Braylon Shmyr drives hard to the net for the Blades.
    The visitors would tie things up at 1-1 with 2:16 to play in the second period, when centre Gage Ramsay slipped home the equalizer through a screen.
    Pats head coach and general manager John Paddock had concerns about how the game was going, especially with the fact his club dumped the Swift Current Broncos 8-1 the previous night at home.
    “Six games in eight days takes a toll not so much physically as mentally,” said Paddock. “I thought our players that played so good last night, which was everybody, tonight they were half a step to a full step behind. It could be for varying reasons.
    “Our high end players did not play smart enough in situations where the game is tight for whatever reason. When the game is different, you just have to do things different. Our good players I thought let us down.”
Blades goalie Logan Flodell blocks a shot into the air.
    Early in the third, the Blades rang a possible go-ahead tally off the post.
    After that chance, the Pats seemed to get more jump after going on a power play with under seven minutes to play in the frame. At times, the Blades were scrambling in their zone, but goaltender Logan Flodell stood his ground. He turned away 39 shots to help his club improve to 12-18-2.
    That set the stage for overtime, where the Blades took the win on the first shift.
    “For us, we didn’t want to go into the shootout,” said Blades head coach Dean Brockman. “They have some pretty dangerous players.
    “We stressed the urgency to try to win it as quickly as possible. Guys responded to it.”
    Tyler Brown turned away 29 shots to take the loss in goal for the Pats, who fell to 21-2-6. The Pats were missing forwards Sam Steel and Austin Wagner, who left for the main training camp for Canada’s world junior team in Boisbriand, Que.
    The Blades were missing a number of key players to injury including standout forwards Cameron Hebig and Mason McCarty along with captain Wyatt Sloboshan.
Blades centre Gage Ramsay circles behind the Regina net.
    “I certainly give our guys a lot of credit for battling through what we had to battle through,” said Brockman. “I thought we had a consistent work ethic.
    “Everybody was up and positive on the bench. You are really happy. When you can beat these guys, you should be happy.”
    The Blades return to action on Sunday when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors at 4 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. The Pats, who finished playing six games in eight days, return to action Friday, when they travel to Moose Jaw to face the Warriors.

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