Saturday, 29 September 2018

Blades appear ready to thrill with heart stoppers

Saskatoon starts 3-0 with shootout win over Tigers

Blades G Nolan Maier stones Tigers C Henrik Rybinski on a shootout chance.
    They might need to add a few more defibrillators at the SaskTel Centre, if the host Saskatoon Blades keep playing games like Saturday night’s thriller.
    The local spectators likely won’t mind, because that would mean they get to see the Blades win games like Saturday night’s thriller.
    Taking on the Medicine Hat Tigers, the Blades trailed Saturday’s WHL regular season clash at three different times by scores of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. On each of those occasions, the Blades managed to tie things up including a power-play point blast by overage right-winger Max Gerlach that forced a 3-3 draw and overtime with 3:15 to play in the third period.
Riley McKay (#39) celebrates scoring on a shootout chance for the Blades.
    After a scoreless overtime frame, the tension got cranked up for the 3,110 in attendance thanks to a tiebreaking shootout that lasted 10 rounds.
    With the Blades shooting first, Saskatoon star sophomore centre Kirby Dach and Tigers captain James Hamblin traded goals in the first round.
    Blades star netminder Nolan Maier and Tigers Danish import goalie Mads Sogaard, who was making his first career WHL regular season start, ensured no one scored through the next seven rounds. During that stretch, the Blades faithful had to wait nervously on pins and needles as six Tigers shooters could have potentially won the game for the visitors had it not been for the work put in by Maier.
James Hamblin had two goals and an assist for the Tigers.
    In the ninth round, Blades overage offensive defenceman Dawson Davidson beat Sogaard giving the hosts a chance to win the game.
    Tigers right-winger Bryan Lockner proceeded to thwart those hopes scoring after Davidson to force a 2-2 tie and a 10th round in the tiebreaker.
    In round 10, Blades tough guy left-winger Riley McKay snapped a shot past Sogaard to put the hosts up 3-2 in the shootout.
    Maier sealed the win making a pad save on Tigers centre Henrik Rybinski, who tried to score on a backhand deke.
    With that stop, the host side’s fans at the SaskTel Centre were able to exhale as the Blades skated away with a 3-2 win in the shootout and a 4-3 overall victory in the contest to improve to 3-0. The Tigers record moved to 1-3-0-1 with the extra time setback.
    The Blades have missed the playoffs for the last five straight seasons, which included falling out of a playoff position inside of the final 10 games in each of the past two campaigns.
Tigers G Mads Sogaard makes a save on a busy first career WHL start.
    After posting a 35-33-3-1 record last season playing out of an incredibly tough East Division, hopes are high the Blades can return to the post-season in the current 2018-19 campaign.
    Saskatoon won its first two games over the Swift Current Broncos by a combined score of 10-1. With that performance, the Blades found themselves rated 10th on the CHL’s Top 10 rankings for this past week. 
    That marked the first time the Blades have made those rankings since the 2012-13 season, when they hosted the Memorial Cup, finished first in the East Division and last made the WHL playoffs.
Max Gerlach scored to force overtime for the Blades.
    Against the Tigers on Saturday, the Blades showed a lot of resolve battling back to force a tie score on the three occasions Medicine Hat went up by one goal.
    There were glaring times the Blades showed they were in early season form as well, which is to be expected at this part of the campaign.
    Hamblin gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead at the 3:05 mark of the first period, when his bad angle shot from the right corner boards found its way past Maier.
    After Blades captain Chase Wouters scored just over seven minutes later to force a 1-1 tie, the hosts fell behind again on another “oops.”
    Blades veteran defenceman Jackson Caller attempted to make a backhanded pass along his own blue-line and it was picked off by Hamblin.
Captain Chase Wouters scored the Blades first goal of the night.
    The 19-year-old product of Edmonton, Alta., sped into the Saskatoon zone on a breakaway and potted his second of the contest to give the Tigers a 2-1 edge heading into the first intermission.
    After a scoreless second, Blades rookie Norwegian import left-winger Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen snapped home his first career WHL regular season goal to knot the score up at 2-2 just 62 seconds into the third.
    Medicine Hat appeared to restore order going ahead 3-2 scoring on the power-play at the 8:48 mark of the third, when right-winger Hayden Ostir wired home a setup pass from Hamblin.
Josh Paterson had two assists for the Blades on Saturday.
    That created the stage for the dramatics late in the third, overtime and the shootout.
    Maier made 29 stops over 65 minutes and turned away 8-of-10 shooters in the shootout to pick up the win.
    Sogaard turned away 39 shots over 65 minutes and 7-of-10 shooters in the shootout to take the extra time setback for the Tigers.
    Blades 19-year-old right-winger Josh Paterson had two assists for the hosts making his debut in the current campaign. Paterson missed Saskatoon’s first two regular season games with an upper body injury.
    Overall, the Blades showed their supporters they could be in for a fun and enjoyable season.
    Like the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Blades gave their fans moments to make them aware the 2018-19 campaign won’t always be a joyride.
The Blades begin to celebrate their victory on Saturday night.
    With that in mind, it appears spectators will enjoy the fact they visited the SaskTel Centre on most nights for a Blades game.
    They might even get that enjoyment following the team on the road, as the Blades return to action on Sunday traveling to Prince Albert to take on their archrivals the Raiders (4-0) at 6 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.

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