Friday, 2 March 2018

Post-season chase hits last sprint for Blades

Blades C Josh Paterson (#61) checks Raiders D Zack Hayes.
    The Saskatoon Blades post-season chase is all going to come down to one last gasp sprint.
    Looking to make the WHL playoffs for the first time since 2013, the Blades (31-29-2-1) are tied for the second wildcard berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with the Prince Albert Raiders (27-25-9-2) at 65 points. Both teams are six points back of the Brandon Wheat Kings (33-25-3-2) for the first wildcard berth in the Eastern Conference. All three of those teams have nine game remaining on their respective regular season schedules.
    The Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats (33-25-5-1) sit one point ahead of the Wheat Kings and seven points ahead of the Blades and Raiders for third in the WHL’s East Division. The Pats have eight games remaining on their regular season schedule.
    Over the next 16 days, these four clubs could end up shuffling into various positions.
For the Blades, they are looking to get a big monkey off their back. They have matched their standings point total from last season, but they want another big sign to show their rebuild since hosting the Memorial Cup in 2013 is paying off.
Rookie Nolan Maier has been stellar in goal for the Blades.
    It has taken a lot of work to get to this point.
    Last season, the Blades were agonizingly close to a post-season berth. Entering their fifth last game of the 2016-17 campaign, they led the Calgary Hitmen by three points for the final playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Blades won only one of their final five games and were knocked out of a playoff position by the Hitmen, who won five of their last six outings.
    The Blades would love to ensure they make good on their chance this year. They begin their last stretch tonight, when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes (31-25-6) at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
Saskatoon won’t see Regina down this final stretch. The Blades will face the Wheat Kings once in Brandon on March 13 and the Raiders in Prince Albert on March 16 and in Saskatoon March 17.
    The Wheat Kings have the toughest final stretch playing the WHL leading Moose Jaw Warriors (47-13-1-2) four times and the Swift Current Broncos (45-14-4-1), who sit second overall in the WHL standings, twice.
    The Raiders will see the Warriors twice and the Broncos once. The Pats don’t have any games remaining against the Warriors and finish the regular season playing the Broncos twice.
    The Blades travel to Moose Jaw on Saturday to take on the Warriors and see the Broncos one last time on March 14 in Swift Current.
Braylon Shmyr (#23) is enjoying his most productive WHL campaign.
    While there will be lots of chances for the Blades to gain ground in the standings, they have to take care of their part and win. If they don’t win, all the scoreboard watching or possible breaks from other results won’t matter too much.
    The Blades do have the roster to make their final sprint a success. Rookie netminder Nolan Maier, who turned 17-years-old in early January, has had a stellar first campaign posting a 22-13-0-1 record, a 3.11 goals against average, a .903 save percentage and two shutouts. He gives the blue and gold a chance to win night in and night out.
    Overage left-winger Braylon Shmyr is set to eclipse 80 points for the first time in his WHL career topping the Blades in scoring with 33 goals and 46 assists. Right-winger Max Gerlach and centre Josh Paterson both have 27 goals on the campaign and have a high likelihood of hitting the 30-goal plateau.
Captain Evan Fiala has anchored the back end for the Blades.
    Sophomore centre Chase Wouters has turned in a breakout campaign netting 17 goals and 29 assists.
    On the back end, the Blades have the personnel capable of closing out tight games in captain Evan Fiala, Dawson Davidson, Jackson Caller, Mark Rubinchik, Jake Kustra and Seth Bafaro.
    Head coach Dean Brockman and his staff will get their players the information they need in adjustments to have success.
    The Blades have the ability to seize that last playoff spot. They should relish this moment and just go after it without fear.
    The current Blades have a golden chance to leave their mark by helping the franchise end its post-season drought.

Clark will be in the house for tonight’s Blades game

    The Blades will have a special guest on hand for tonight’s game who has become a hometown Olympic hero.
    Emily Clark will be in attendance at the SaskTel Centre fresh of helping Canada’s women’s hockey team earn a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The power forward, who was a former star with the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team, was the youngest player on the Canadian team at age 22 and the only Saskatchewan born player on the Canadian roster.
    During the second intermission, Clark will be signing autographs at the SportsClips autograph station on the concourse. Posters of Clark will be provided.
    At the Winter Olympics, Clark had a goal in Canada’s semifinal win over the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
    Tonight’s contest is also the Blades “Shaker Night,” and the team will be raising awareness, funds and food for the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre. Fans are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the game as a donation, and if possible, a box of macaroni and cheese.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to
    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.