Saturday, 13 April 2019

Blades buzz hitting peak, big crowd expected for Game 6 of playoff series with Raiders

More fans have come to cheer the Blades at the SaskTel Centre in playoffs.
    For the first time in what seems like forever, it feels like the Saskatoon Blades are a must see team in “The Bridge City.”
    When the Blades host the Prince Albert Raiders for Game 6 of their WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Saskatoon club is expected to draw its biggest crowd of the season to the SaskTel Centre. The two teams faceoff at 4 p.m. on Sunday for the latest installment of their heated rivalry.
    The highest attendance the Blades posted for a home game this season was 9,188 back on March 15, when they downed the Raiders 3-2 in the second last regular season game for both sides. It is expected over 10,000 spectators could show up for the Game 6 playoff battle between the Blades and Raiders.
The Blades faithful have turned out in large numbers for the Raiders series.
    Of course, the Raiders will be bringing more than a healthy contingent of supporters with them down Highway #11 from Prince Albert.
    The Raiders have been backed solidly by “Hockey Town North” pretty much all season as they finished first overall in the WHL with a 54-10-2-2 record in the regular season and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    Prince Albert leads the best-of-seven series with Saskatoon 3-2 and will try to close things out with a win on Sunday, which would put the Raiders in the Eastern Conference Championship series for the first time since 2005.
You can expect to see a mixed crowd at the SaskTel Centre on Sunday.
    The Blades will be trying to keep their breakout season alive that saw them finish fourth overall in the WHL’s regular season standings with a 45-15-8 record and earn honourable mention status in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    Their breakout campaign has finally started to capture the imaginations of the citizens of Saskatoon over the last month and a half. The surge upwards in attendance on Sunday will mainly be from people in Saskatoon who are curious to see what this season’s Blades are all about.
    Sunday’s crowd will be a mixed one. The crowd will contain the ultra passionate fan that knows everything about the team they cheer for and their opponent.
Raiders fans will be out in droves on Sunday too.
    You will also get the ticket buyer who is going to see the game and just knows that both teams have been good this season. Those ticket buyers will have scant knowledge about who will hit the ice for each side.
    You will see the ticket buyer from Saskatoon who hasn’t seen a WHL game in a lengthy span of time that figures the moment has arrived to take a chance to see the Blades again.
    During the regular season, the Blades averaged 3,911 spectators for each of their 34 home games.
    That average jumped to 6,654 spectators per game for each of the Blades four home playoff games to date.
Kirby Dach, left, is a player to watch for the Blades.
    The Blades bandwagon has been filling noticeably since the start of the post-season. Their first home date on March 22 against the Moose Jaw Warriors drew 5,193 spectators.
    On March 23 against the Warriors, the Blades attracted 6,022 spectators.
    In Game 3 of the series against the Raiders last Tuesday, the Blades pulled in 7,641 spectators. For Game 4 against the Raiders last Wednesday, the Blades saw 7,761 spectators enter the building.
    There is buzz around Saskatoon for the Blades which is helping city match the “#BladeCity” moniker the team coined this season.
Brett Leason is a player to watch for the Raiders.
    Of course, the war of attrition is starting to show its effects on the competing teams in this series.
    The Blades could potentially be without star offensive defenceman Dawson Davidson.
    Late in the third period of the Raiders 6-1 romp in Game 5 in Prince Albert on Friday, Davidson left the contest after being drilled by Raiders physical forward Justin Nachbaur.
    Nachbaur was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct on the play. On Saturday, the WHL announced Nachbaur has been suspended for two games for that hit.
    Blades star centre Kirby Dach missed about the last 10 minutes of the second period of Game 5 after he came together with Raiders star right-winger Brett Leason. Dach returned for the third period, but it is still uncertain how effective he will be for Game 6.
The Blades faithful cheers on one of their team’s goals.
    On the Raiders side, star left-winger Cole Fonstad missed Game 5 with an undisclosed injury.
Still, the incoming casual fans will get to see a number of good players on Sunday.
    The goalie battle between Blades star sophomore Nolan Maier and Raiders star veteran Ian Scott is a compelling one.
    Blades veteran blue-liners Brandon Schuldhaus and Nolan Kneen are solid and forwards in captain Chase Wouters, Max Gerlach, “Uncle” Gary Haden, Ryan Hughes, Riley McKay, Eric Florchuk and Kyle Crnkovic will create their share of excitement.
A crowd of over 10,000 is expected at the SaskTel Centre on Sunday.
    The Raiders have arguably the best starting six on defence in the entire CHL let alone the WHL in captain Brayden Pachal, Zack Hayes, Jeremy Masella, Max Martin, Sergei Sapego and Kaiden Guhle.
    Prince Albert can hit the ice with four solid forward lines. Some of their most exciting players up front include Leason, Noah Gregor, Parker Kelly, Sean Montgomery, Dante Hannoun and Ozzy Wiesblatt.
    The incoming fans both new ones and returning ones will have lots to see along with the regulars.
    Hopefully, they like what they see and return for more games in the future including next season.

Good far outweighs bad when Raiders and Blades fans interact

    So far in the WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades, the fans on both sides have been frenemies more often than showing actual dislike for each other.
    For the most part, it seems like the fans on either side have treated each other well and with respect as the series has gone on. It has been something you can easily notice in both the Art Hauser Centre and the SaskTel Centre.
    Of course, there are the hiccups. All one has to do is check the Twitter social media line after an encounter between the Raiders and Blades wraps up, and you will usually find fans on either side trading fairly toxic posts with each other.
Raiders and Blades fans visit outside the Art Hauser Centre.
    Following Game 4 in Saskatoon, reported Raiders fans in Section N of the SaskTel Centre had drinks spilled on them and macaroni thrown on them from fans sitting in the upper deck above them.
    Still, the number of good interactions between opposing fans have greatly outnumber the bad interactions. While you would like to eliminate all the bad interactions, it is realistically almost impossible to do dealing with people.
    Here is hoping the positive interacts continue in Game 6 on Sunday, and during a potential Game 7 on Tuesday in Prince Albert.
    If fans want to share frenemies pictures on social media, they should feel free to do so to increase positivity.

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