Saturday, 20 January 2018

Blades OT victory is Flortastic

Newcomer Florchuk nets winner in 4-3 victory over Pats

Eric Florchuk celebrates his OT winner with for the Blades.
    Eric Florchuk welcome to Saskatoon.
    Acquired just before the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10 in a deal with the Victoria Royals, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., product had a head turning performance in his first home game with the Saskatoon Blades. The skilled left-winger scored the Blades first goal on Saturday night at the SaskTel Centre.
    He finished the night tipping home a shot from centre Kirby Dach at the 1:37 mark of overtime to deliver the Blades to a 4-3 overtime victory against the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats. Florchuk’s goal sparked the crowd of 4,346 into a frenzy minus the sizable contingent in attendance that came to cheer for the Pats.
    “These games help bring a team together,” said Florchuk, who was selected in the first round and 13th overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. “I think this game today was a huge start for us going forward.
Eric Florchuk scored twice for the Blades.
    “These guys have made me feel like I am at home, part of the team. It has been awesome here.”
    Florchuk debuted with the Blades in the three road contests they played before Saturday’s game. Saskatoon posted one victory in that stretch. Florchuk collected four assists in those outings, but the win over the Pats marked the first time he found the back of the net with the Saskatoon side.
    Against the Pats, the Blades coaching staff placed Florchuk on a line with Dach at centre and Max Gerlach at right wing. Florchuk and Dach, who was selected in the first round and second overall by the Blades in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, grew up playing hockey together in Fort Saskatchewan. Dach returned to the Blades lineup on Saturday after missing 10 games due to an upper body injury.
    Florchuk said he found his chemistry with Dach along with a few other forwards.
    “I think that the organization really wanted me,” said Florchuk. “There was probably a good fit for me being here playing with Kirby (Dach) before growing up with minor hockey all through our years.
    “Even playing with Chase Wouters, it was a great fit for me.”
    The Blades got off to a good start on the scoreboard going ahead 2-0 in the first period with Florchuk’s first goal of the game and a tally from Wouters.
Chase Wouters had a first period goal for the Blades.
    Wouters converted a nice setup pass from overage left-winger Braylon Shmyr from across the face of the Regina goal on a rush.
    While the Blades had the early edge, a now deep Pats team that experienced a big makeover with a number of deals in the days leading up to the WHL trade deadline came at the home side in waves and carried play for much of the contest.
    Nolan Maier, who is the Blades outstanding rookie goalie who turned 17-years-old earlier this month, put on a clinic making miraculous save after miraculous save.
    The Pats pushed back to take a 3-2 lead, but the goals came grudgingly against a determined Maier. Pats overage left-winger Jesse Gabrielle scored with 1:47 to play in the first period to cut the Blades lead to 2-1.
    Former Blades winger and Saskatoon product Cameron Hebig scored for the Pats at the 5:32 mark of the second period to force a 2-2 tie. The Pats acquired Hebig in a deal just before the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10.
    With 1:17 to play in the second period, Pats superstar captain Sam Steel tucked home a puck close in on the Saskatoon goal to give the visitors a 3-2 edge.
Nolan Maier makes one of his 45 saves on Saturday night.
    While the Pats worked their way into the lead, Maier said his team’s confidence didn’t waiver, and he thought his side’s intensity was where it needed to be.
    “We knew they had some key players in the lineup,” said Maier. “Their whole team is there, and that is what they are going to have for Memorial Cup.
    “We were just really fired up. After not having a very strong weekend by us in our Central (Division) road trip, we needed this one.”
    The Blades came out with a determined effort in the third period. With 7:38 to play in the frame, Blades overage captain Evan Fiala wired home the equalizer to force a 3-3 tie to the top right corner of the Regina goal past Pats rookie netminder Max Paddock.
    That tally set the stage for the dramatic finish in overtime.
Pats captain Sam Steel, left, take the puck from Max Gerlach of the Blades.
    Blades head coach Dean Brockman was pleased to see Florchuk and Dach come through in the clutch along with the effort his side put in.
    “That was the hardest working game we’ve played for a while, so that is a good sign,” said Brockman. “He (Florchuk) made some good plays going to the net and went to the net with your stick down as everybody should tell you.
    “Kirby (Dach) made some good plays to get it (the puck) to him. We talk about getting contributions from everybody, and those guys made theirs tonight.”
    Maier made 45 stops to pick up the win in goal for the Blades. Paddock turned away 28 shots to take the setback on goal for the Pats.
    Brockman said Saturday’s victory should do wonders for building team unity.
The Blades celebrate their overtime victory.
    “The old cliché is winning is a lot better than losing,” said Brockman. “When you win, you have to gain some confidence.
    “We lost a little bit on the road and gained it back here tonight.”
    The Blades improved to 23-21-2-1 to hold the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Pats record moves to 24-20-5, and they hold the first wildcard sport in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a four point edge on the Blades. Saskatoon has two games in hand.
    The Blades return to action on Sunday, when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors (37-7-1-2) at 2 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. The Warriors are entering this contest after enjoying an off day on Saturday. Against the Warriors, the Blades are hosting their “Welcome the World” game, which will feature a citizenship ceremony for about 30 people.

Cooke steals victory for Huskies, sets saves milestone

Jordon Cooke is now third all-time in career saves for the Huskies.
    Jordon Cooke came through with arguable his best performance of the season, when the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team needed it the most.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Huskies superstar netminder turned away all 40 shots he faced to back his side to a 2-0 victory in a U Sports regular season contest over the University of Calgary Dinos before 387 spectators.
    With that performance, Cooke, who is in his fourth year of eligibility, has amassed 2,232 career saves with the Dogs. The 24-year-old Leduc, Alta., product now sits third on the all-time career saves list with the Huskies men’s hockey team.
    Jeff Calvert, who played for the Huskies from 1994 to 1999, now sits fourth on the Huskies career saves list with 2,217 stops. Jeff Harvey, who played for the Huskies from 2005 to 2010, sits second on the Huskies career saves list with 2,308 stops, and Ryan Holfeld, who toiled with the Dogs from 2010 to 2015, tops the Huskies career saves list with 2,602 stops.
    Against the Dinos on Saturday, third-year defenceman MacKenzie Johnston scored to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead in the second period with Josh Roach and Logan McVeigh drawing assists. Roach scored for the Dogs in the third with Colby Harmsworth picking up a helper.
    The clash had a rough ending as Dinos forward Riley Sheen received a head checking major penalty and a game misconduct and Huskies captain Kendall McFaull was given a cross-checking major and a game misconduct with 11 seconds remaining in the third period. Both infractions will likely be reviewed for possible suspensions by Canada West.
    The Huskies, who are rated third in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, improved to 18-3-1 to remain tied for first in the Canada West Conference with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, who are also 18-3-1. The Golden Bears are rated fourth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. Both teams are guaranteed to host at lead one best-of-three playoff series in the Canada West post-season.
    Matthew Greenfield turned away 24 shots to take the setback in goal for the Dinos. The Dinos fell to 6-13-3 to remain seventh in Canada West.
    The Huskies return to action on Friday, when they travel to Vancouver, B.C., to take on the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

Vance keeps rolling for Huskies women’s team

Jessica Vance picked up her sixth shutout of the season for the Huskies.
    Another game resulted in another shutout from Jessica Vance.
    The 20-year-old sophomore netminder for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team made 15 stops to pick up her sixth shutout of the season as the Huskies blanked the U of Calgary Dinos 1-0 in a U Sports regular season clash before 124 spectators at the Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary. In her first full season with the Huskies, Vance has posted a 9-3 record, a 0.84 goals against average and a .961 save percentage.
    Sophomore winger Emily Upgang potted the Huskies lone goal at the 11:05 mark of the third period with linemates captain Kaitlin Willoughby and Brooklyn Haubrich picking up assists.
Kelsey Roberts turned away 38 shots to take the setback in goal for the Dinos.
    The Huskies improved to 14-7-1 to sit fourth in the Canada West Conference. Their win allowed them to lock up a berth and also the right to host at least one best-of-three series in the Canada West playoffs.
    The Dinos fell to 6-14-2 to sit seventh in Canada West.
    Out of the 88 regular season games played to date in the Canada West Conference for women’s hockey, 42 of them have been shutouts. The Huskies lead the conference with nine shutouts as a team, and Vance’s six shutouts have her sitting first for shutouts by an individual goalie.
    The Huskies return to action on Friday, when they host the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.

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