Saturday, 4 August 2018

Blades’ Maier, Dach and Love deserve roles with Canada’s under-18 squad

Blades netminder Nolan Maier is going to play for Canada’s under-18 team.
    It might be hard for fans in “The Bridge City” to believe this, but the Saskatoon Blades will likely be a good team this season.
    If the selections for Canada’s under-18 team this summer are any indication, the future is now for this year and the next couple of seasons afterwards for the Blades. Saskatoon is one of two franchises in the Canadian Hockey League to have two representatives on the Canadian team in goaltender Nolan Maier and centre Kirby Dach.
    Joining those two is Blades head coach Mitch Love as an assistant coach for the Canadian side. Love was hired by the Blades this past May.
    The trio will try to help Canada win the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which starts Monday and runs through to Aug. 11 in Edmonton and Red Deer. Canada opens play taking on Switzerland on Monday at 7 p.m. at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Blades C Kirby Dach will play for Canada’s under-18 team.
    In a pre-tournament game on Saturday at the Servus Arena in Red Deer, Canada dropped a 4-3 decision to the Czech Republic.
    Canada won last year’s event, when it was known at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, when it was held in Breclav and Bratislava in the Czech Republic.
    Maier and Dach played a big part as 16-year-old rookies last season helping the Blades post a solid 35-33-3-1 record playing out of an incredibly tough East Division in the WHL. Saskatoon posted an 18-17-2-1 mark against its East Division rivals in falling three points shy of the Prince Albert Raiders (32-27-9-4) for the second wildcard playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
    The Blades had the seventh best record in the 12-team conference in missing the post-season.
    Maier turned heads becoming the Blades starting goalie posting statistics you don’t normally see from a 16-year-old rookie with a 23-17-2 record, a 3.31 goals against average, a .895 save percentage and two shutouts. The Yorkton, Sask., product claimed the team awards for rookie of the year and most valuable player.
    Maier, who stands 6-feet and weighs 168 pounds, stole a number of games for the Blades last season. His play equaled that of any of the league’s top established puck stoppers.
Nolan Maier was named the Blades rookie of the year and MVP last season.
    Dach came to the Blades with big expectations after they selected him in the first round and second overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., product received his first extended stay with the Blades in his 15-year-old season in the 2016-17 campaign.
    With the Blades dealing with a number of injuries, they made a special request to have Dach called up from Fort Saskatchewan Rangers midget AAA team on an emergency basis near the end of the regular season. The request was accommodated by Hockey Alberta, Fort Saskatchewan Minor Hockey and the WHL.
    Dach appeared in 19 regular season games in 2016-17 collecting six goals, four assists and a plus-three rating in the plus-minus department.
    Last season as a 16-year-old rookie, Dach, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 181 pounds, appeared in 52 regular season games recording seven goals and 39 assists. While he was a rookie, Dach already started to attract special attention from opponents, who tried to agitate him, trash talk him and give him extra shots after the whistle to knock him off his game. Those tactics are usually received for established veteran stars.
Kirby Dach turned heads as a point producer.
    In November of 2017, both Maier and Dach played for Canada Black at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge held jointly in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C.
    At that tournament, Maier posted a 1-2 record, a 3.02 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in three appearances. Dach had a goal and six assists in five games.
    Both players are humble, don’t skip any steps and put in the time to get better as players and persons. They are two players you never have to worry about, because they are very self-motivated when it comes improving.
    Love joined the Blades after spending seven seasons on the staff of the Everett Silvertips. He came on board with the Silvertips in 2011 as an assistant coach and strength and conditioning coach. He was an assistant coach and an assistant to the general manager this past season.
    As one of the Silvertips bench bosses, Love helped Everett finish third overall in the WHL’s regular season standings with a 47-20-2-3 mark this past season. 
    In the playoffs, the Silvertips advanced all the way the WHL Championship series, where they fell 4-2 in the best-of-seven set to the Swift Current Broncos.
    During his years with the Silvertips, Love was also an assistant coach for a couple of Canadian teams at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in 2015 and 2016. 
    The under-17 tournament saw Love earn a gold medal working with Team Canada White.
Mitch Love introduced as the new Blades head coach in May.
    Love was a guest coach at Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp in 2017.
    The 34-year-old product from Quesnel, B.C., is a younger coach who has worked his way up and is ready to take on the head coach role. When Love was in Everett, the Silvertips played with a lot of poise and discipline.
    You can expect Love will try to make the Blades mirror the positive characteristics the Silvertips had during his time there.
    When this trio is done at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, it is possible to foresee that they will help the Blades end their playoff drought that spans back to 2013 this season. It feels like “The Bridge City Bunch” is set to finally see good times once again.

Huskies’ alum McFaull to honour late Gasper as a pro

Kendall McFaull is going to honour a friend in the pros.
    For his first season in the professional hockey ranks, University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey alum Kendall McFaull is going to honour a friend who tragically passed away.
    This coming season, McFaull is going to play for the Stena Line Belfast Giants, who play out of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. For one season, the 26-year-old defensive defenceman is going to wear #27 in honour of Troy Gasper the Giants announced on Tuesday. The two grew up together in Rosetown, Sask.
    Gasper, 26, his 28-year-old wife, Carissa, and their three children, Kael, Shea and Maks, were killed on June 29, 2018 when their SUV collided with another SUV on Highway 4 near Elrose. Gasper played junior A hockey with the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League from 2009 to 2011.
    McFaull was originally going to wear #2 for the Giants as #27 has been retired by the team in 2004 in honour of former Giants left-winger Paxton Schulte. Schulte agreed with bringing #27 out of retirement for one season to allow McFaull to honour Gasper.
    Last season with the Huskies in U Sports, McFaull, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 209 pounds, appeared in 27 regular season games collecting four goals, five assists and a plus-nine rating in the plus-minus department. In 139 career regular season games with the Huskies from 2013 to 2018, McFaull recorded 13 goals, 26 assists and a plus-36 rating.

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