Friday, 14 December 2018

Haden, Blades benefit from pre-Christmas luck

Gary Haden reacts to scoring the winning goal for the Blades on Friday.
    Gary Haden believes he might have a rabbit’s foot waiting for him under the Christmas tree back home in Airdrie, Alta.
    Even if he doesn’t, he plans to do everything he can to protect his current game stick.
    On Friday before 3,219 spectators at the SaskTel Centre, the 19-year-old left-winger scored the winning goal for the Saskatoon Blades in surprising fashion.
    With the Blades locked in a 2-2 tie with the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings and having been badly outplayed in the third period, Haden drove down the right wing on a last second rush. He fired a shot on goal that was turned away by Wheat Kings netminder Ethan Kruger.
    The rebound of Haden’s shot deflected off the skates of Wheat Kings left-winger Cole Reinhardt into the Brandon net with 4.1 seconds remaining in the third period. 
Wheat Kings G Ethan Kruger looks at the Blades winning goal in his net.
    That tally gave the Blades a stunning 3-2 victory in the WHL regular season clash and boosted their winning streak to four straight games.
    On Tuesday night, Haden had four goals and an assist in a 6-3 home ice victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings using the same stick that accounted for the winner Friday against the Wheat Kings.
    “I am going to keep this stick I am using,” said Haden. “I am not using that one in practice or anything.
    “I can’t afford to have this one break. This one has been good to me so far, so let’s keep it going.”
Nolan Maier makes one of his 18 third period saves in the Blades net.
    Haden credited star 17-year-old netminder Nolan Maier as the reason the Blades were able to win on Friday night. Maier made 33 stops in the contest and an incredible 18 saves in the third period to give Saskatoon a chance to steal a victory.
    The Wheat Kings stormed the Blades for the entire third frame holding an 18-5 edge in shots on goal in that stanza. Early in the third, Maier had to make a big pad stop on a rebound chance by Wheat Kings left-winger Linden McCorrister.
    Maier also received some help from his teammates too. Saskatoon overage right-winger Max Gerlach made a diving stick stop to keep Wheat Kings left-winger Ben McCartney from dumping the puck into an empty side of the Blades goal near the midway point of the frame.
Josh Paterson scored for the Blades in the first period on Friday.
    Late in the third, Maier robbed McCorrister on a breakaway and made a key blocker stop on Wheat Kings right-winger Caiden Daley.
    “We can thank him (Maier) for that one for sure,” said Haden. “He really bailed us out.
    “I’ve been on a few successful teams. On every successful team you have a good goalie. He is always there to bail you out no matter what, no matter the situation.
    “Tonight, we really didn’t play Blades hockey in the third period, but he made some big saves.”
    The Wheat Kings drew first blood at the 5:17 mark of the first period, when 16-year-old rookie centre Ridly Greig sniped home his seventh of the season to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
    The Blades pulled even at 1-1 a little over three minutes later, when centre Brandon Machado deflected home a point shot from offensive defenceman Dawson Davidson.
Brandon Machado, left, battles along the boards for the Blades.
    Saskatoon jumped ahead 2-1 before the opening frame ended, when Blades right-winger Josh Paterson cut across the front of the Brandon goal and his shot deflected off the stick of a Wheat Kings defenceman into the Brandon net.
    The Wheat Kings tied things up at 2-2 on a short-handed two-on-one break with 4:09 remaining in the second period. McCartney slipped a pass to McCorrister to send him in alone on the Blades goal. McCorrister tucked home his 11th of the season to put the visitors on even terms with the home side.
    The first 40 minutes were evenly played and the shots on goal were tied 17-17. That set the stage for the crazy finish in the third.
    Kruger ultimately made 19 saves to take the setback in goal for the Wheat Kings (14-10-3-3).
    These two teams will go at it again on Saturday in Brandon at Westoba Place before both departing on their respective Christmas breaks.
Linden McCorrister had a goal for the Wheat Kings on Friday.
    Saskatoon improves to 21-10-3 with the win, but Blades head coach Mitch Love admits he didn’t expect to see his team win in the fashion they did on Friday night.
    “We got real lucky tonight in my opinion,” said Love. “The other team probably deserved a better fate, and our guys understand that.
    “That was the message delivered after the game. We strayed away from what has made us successful to this point in the year. They took total advantage over there.
    “We’ve got to be better tomorrow.”
    While he had an outstanding performance, Maier said he gained some extra energy in the third due to Gerlach’s diving save. Maier likes the fact his team was able to pull out a gutty win in a game they could have very well lost.
The Blades and mascot Poke Check celebrate their win on Friday.
    “It was kind of hectic,” said Maier. “I think everyone saw that one sliding save by Max Gerlach.
    “That really helped me out. That kind of just showed the character in our room. It just kind of helped me out along that whole stretch.
    “It is kind of a good battle back for our team, but we know we have to be better than that. We’re going to do that tomorrow.”

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