Friday, 12 October 2018

Gerlach regains sharpshooting form in Blades OT win

Max Gerlach (#9) is embraced by Chase Wouters (#44).
    Max Gerlach was thankful his hex around the net was a short one.
    After going goalless and pointless over a span of five games, the 20-year-old product of Flower Mound, Texas, returned to his sharpshooting form in the nick of time for the Saskatoon Blades.
    With the Blades training the visiting Red Deer Rebels 2-1 on Friday night at the SaskTel Centre, Gerlach wired home his second goal of the contest with 15.3 seconds to play in the third period to knot the score up at 2-2 and force overtime. 
    In overtime, Gerlach took a feed from linemate Josh Paterson and wired home his hat trick goal to the top left corner of the Rebels net with 76 seconds to play in the extra frame to deliver the Blades to a 3-2 victory in the WHL regular season contest played before 3,239 spectators.
    Looking back at his string of goalless games after Friday’s win, Gerlach recalled a bit of bad luck he had around the net with Paterson on the ice, when the Blades downed the Oil Kings in Edmonton 5-3 on Oct. 3.
Max Gerlach fired home a hat trick for the Blades on Friday night.
    “Things weren’t just going in,” said Gerlach. “I noticed a couple of pucks were flying off my stick and kind of bobbling.
    “Even in Edmonton, I kind of had an empty net and Patty (Josh Paterson) kind of skated in front of me and blocked it. I was dealing with a little bit of adversity, but we were still getting the wins on the road, so it wasn’t too big of a concern.
    “I’m just glad I could help out tonight.”
    Gerlach started the campaign netting four goals and two assists in the Blades first three regular season games. The stretch of going pointless in five games followed.
    Blades head coach Mitch Love noticed that Gerlach started to get a bit over anxious.
Rebels goalie Ethan Anders stops Blades captain Chase Wouters (#44).
    “I know Max (Gerlach) was pressing a little bit in terms of trying to find the back of the net,” said Love, whose Blades won their fourth straight game. “He had an early hot start to his year and then things dried up for him a little bit.
    “Again, guys like him find the back of the net. Hopefully, that is a confidence builder for him.
    “Guys that find the back of the net like him tend to kind of go on bits of streaks. Hopefully, that is something that he continues to do.”
    Returning to action after being off for a stretch of five straight days, the Blades fell behind 1-0 to the Rebels just 51 seconds into the contest when Russian import forward Oleg Zaytsev fired home his fourth of the season.
Captain Reese Johnson breaks down the ice for the Rebels.
    From there, the two squads engaged in a lot of back and forth action up and down the ice for most of the game.
    At the 7:10 mark of the second period, the Blades tied things up at 1-1 working on a five-on-three power play, when Gerlach sniped home his first of the contest.
    The Rebels went back in front 2-1 at the 10:50 mark of the second on a power-play goal from overage right-winger Jeff de Wit. That set the stage for the dramatics inside of the final minute of the third period and overtime.
    The Blades have won all three of their home outings to date, but they’ve needed come-from-behind efforts in their last two contests at the SaskTel Centre including Friday’s clash with the Rebels. Back on Sept. 29, the Blades trailed the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers 2-1 heading into the third period before rallying for a 4-3 victory after a tiebreaking shootout.
    Love would prefer to pull out wins without having to pull out any comeback type heroics.
Blades RW Max Gerlach, right, eludes the check of Rebels RW Jeff de Wit.
    “It has been back to back home games here where we’ve been down going into the third period,” said Love. “I’m not sure we want to put ourselves in that position too often.
    “Good hockey teams find ways to win, and we’ve been fortunate the last couple of nights on home ice to do that. We don’t want to get in the habit of that. We’re going to have to definitely tighten up a few things here and find a way to play 60 minutes.”
    Nolan Maier made 23 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Blades, who improved to 7-2. Ethan Anders turned away 34 shots in goal for the Rebels, who saw their record move to 5-2-1.
    Gerlach said the Blades are happy with their record after nine games, but his squad still has a lot of room to improve, which is typical in the early stages of a campaign.
Kirby Dach turns up ice for the Blades.
    “I think the coaching staff is moderately happy with us,” said Gerlach. “I think there are lots of things that we can get better at like our start and just playing a full 60 minutes.
    “You could see when we kind of took care of things late in the second and kind of the third period, we’re a team that definitely had a lot of skill and speed up front. Our backend is great back there too, and we have two great goaltenders. I think if we can piece together 60 minutes every single night we can be one of the top teams in the league this year.”
    The Rebels now travel to Prince Albert to face the Raiders (8-1) at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. The Raiders, who are rated second in the CHL Top 10 Rankings, travel to Saskatoon on Sunday to face the Blades at 2 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
    That encounter will be the Blades next game, and Love is expecting another big battle in that contest.
The Blades celebrate their overtime victory on Friday night.
    “We will get back in here tomorrow after a good night’s rest and try to correct a few things heading into that game,” said Love. “Again, they (the Raiders) are a very good hockey club that we are going to be battling with all year long for the division.
    “We’re going to have to be at our best on Sunday, and a lot sharper than I thought tonight.”

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