Monday, 8 April 2019

Blades’ Schmidt cheered for WHL’s Pats before seeing the light in Saskatoon

Randen Schmidt, centre, loves representing and playing for the Blades.
    Saskatoon Blades utility player Randen Schmidt has an admission.
    Being from Regina, he cheered for the WHL’s Pats when he was young. The Pats are a team Blades fans arguably hate more than the Prince Albert Raiders.
    “I loved the Pats like Jordan Weal, (Jordan) Eberle, Garrett Mitchell, guys like that,” said Schmidt, who turned 19-years-old in January. “I went to like some of those guys’ camps like they would have in summer.
    “I definitely idolized those guys when I was younger for sure.”
    After he joined the Blades partway through the 2017-18 campaign, Schmidt had an awakening.
    “It is funny to see as soon as I was with the Blades I kind of hated the Pats,” said Schmidt with a sly grin. “It was weird.”
    Schmidt played mainly defence for the Blades last season before being moved to forward for the majority of this season. He has switched back to defence for short spurts, when the Blades had a few guys all nursing injuries at the same time.
Randen Schmidt in action for the Blades on March 9.
    Along the way, Schmidt has appeared in 41 regular season games this season recording one goal, three assists and a plus-four rating in the plus-minus department.
    These days, Schmidt is helping the Blades get prepared in their current best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Prince Albert Raiders. The Raiders lead the series 2-0 after the opening two games in Prince Albert.
    The series switches to Saskatoon for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively at 7 p.m. on both nights at the SaskTel Centre. Schmidt played in the Blades first two post-season games and has been skating with the “black aces” since.
    He is willing to take on any task sent in his direction.
    “It is definitely nice to be that like Swiss army guy that can kind of step into any role and help the team out,” said Schmidt. “I like doing that, whatever I can do to help the boys out.”
    While Schmidt hardly appears in the limelight, he has enjoyed playing on a team with stars like Kirby Dach, netminder Nolan Maier, right-winger Max Gerlach, left-winger “Uncle” Gary Haden and offensive defenceman Dawson Davidson.
Blades F Randen Schmidt (#2) tracks down a Brandon Wheat Kings forward.
    Schmidt has relished being teammates with high character guys like captain Chase Wouters, feisty guys that can be pranksters like Riley McKay, guys that never get rattled like defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus and skilled youngsters like rookie Kyle Crnkovic.
    Schmidt could say something good about all his teammates.
    “They’re awesome,” said Schmidt, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 160 pounds. “Last year, I got called up kind of midway through the start of the season. I feel like I didn’t jell as much.
    “This year being with the guys from the start of camp, they are a great group of guys and guys that want to win in hockey. It’s fun to be here.”
    The fact that Schmidt has been unselfish is something that Blades head coach Mitch Love has definitely appreciated.
    “Randen is a natural forward and then moved to defence and then back to forward,” said Love. “He has been our Swiss army knife all year.
Randen Schmidt has been a utility player for most of his hockey life.
    “He comes to the rink with a good attitude each and every day. He has been given some opportunity here, and he is relishing in it whether he plays forward or D.”
    Actually, Schmidt has made a living playing switching between forward and defence for his entire hockey life. He said it came from playing for fun on the outdoor rink with his father, Cal Schmidt, after getting over some initial uncertainties about the game.
    “I remember the first time I tried skating I think I was crying,” said Schmidt. “I was maybe like two or three.
    “Dad let me have a little break there, and then I tried it again when I was about four. Me and my dad would just go out to the outdoor rink, and we would play a little game. I would skate forward and shoot the puck on him.
    “Then he would make me skate backwards to go back to my net. I got good at skating both ways and became a good skater, so I started out playing D when I was younger a lot, because I could skate so well.”
    Schmidt, who was never selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, kept switching between forward and defence as he grew up playing the game.
Randen Schmidt jets into the offensive zone on a rush.
    During the 2016-17 season, Schmidt found himself cemented on defence with the Regina Pat Canadians midget AAA team after Tylor Ludwar was called up and finished that campaign with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.
    Appearing in 41 of the 44 regular season games the Pat Canadians played, Schmidt posted six goals and 16 assists for 22 points. The Pat Canadians topped the SMAAAHL regular season standings with a 36-8 record, captured the SMAAAHL championship and earned a berth in the Telus Cup national championship tournament.
    At that year’s Telus Cup in Prince George, B.C., the Pat Canadians lost a heartbreaker in a semifinal 4-3 in overtime to the Blizzard du Seminaire Saint-Francois.
    “That was one of my best years of hockey,” said Schmidt. “We had such a close group.
    “I kind of had a breakout year for myself I thought. Darrin McKechnie, an old time Regina Pat, he is a great coach. I know this year they got first in the league and they weren’t able to do as well in playoffs.
    “I loved playing there.”
    Schmidt said that experience was big for him now as he skates in the post-season with the Blades.
Randen Schmidt (#2) celebrates one of the Blades wins this season.
    “We ended up having like a regular season of WHL,” said Schmidt. “All those extra playoff games and regional games, it is just like a WHL playoff atmosphere in a way.
    “On your body, it is such a grind and mentally. It definitely helps once I get to this point with the WHL.”
    Schmidt believed his team’s series with the Raiders would turn out to be as hard fought like it has been.
    The Raiders finished first overall in the WHL regular season standings posting a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. The Blades finished fourth overall in the WHL with a 45-15-8 mark and were an honourable mention in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    “It is going to be fun,” said Schmidt. “They like to fill that barn, and the boards are hard in it.
    “It is fun to play there. It riles you up. They have a great group of guys over there, so it will be tough series.”

Love fires off on Raiders as head hunters

Blades head coach Mitch Love engages in a war of words.
    Business is picking up in the best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders.
    Before their series began, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said in a number of media outlets the Blades like to dive and embellish to draw penalties. The Raiders ultimately won the first two games of the series last Friday and Sunday in Prince Albert.
    The series shifts to Saskatoon for Games 3 and 4 that will be held Tuesday and Wednesday respectively at 7 p.m. both nights at the SaskTel Centre.
    On Monday afternoon, Blades head coach Mitch Love held a news conference and accused the Raiders of targeting the heads of Blades players.
    “After watching two games in which I felt there were several incidents, especially in (Sunday) night’s hockey game and even in Game 1, there was a lot of contact to players’ heads,” said Love. “I know our league stresses player safety, so I think the story is here people have turned a blind eye to that kind of thing based on comments that were made previous to the start of the series. 
Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid engages in a war of words.
  “I’ve said this since day one I am going to protect my players, and that is what I am doing here today. It is B.S. It is plain and simple, and I hope it changes heading into Game 3.”
    Love said he expressed his concerns to league officials and thought his concerns fell on deaf ears. He added he believed there was a level of gamesmanship in Habscheid’s comments before the series took place looking to get an edge.
    “I’m tired that we’ve had 11 minor penalties to their six,” said Love, who was a rough and tumble defenceman with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips from 1999 to 2005. “They are not that innocent of a hockey club.
    “It is plain and simple. It starts with the guy that is in charge on their bench, and it goes right across the board. I get playoff hockey is gritty and it is tough and you have to battle through some stuff. I am all about that.
    “Again, that is the way I play the game. Look at my nose. I played the game that way.”
    Pat McKay of CTV Saskatoon made the astute move to post the entire media conference involving Love online. Feel free to make your own judgment and checking out that video by clicking here.

Don’t go over the line in fan reaction

The Blades faithful cheer their team at the SaskTel Centre.
    Overall, the war of words between Prince Albert Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid and Saskatoon Blades head coach Mitch Love makes the head to head WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series between the two sides that much more fun on the fans side of things.
    I am sure it will add extra interest when the two sides tangle in Game 3 of their series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
    Unfortunately, I am well aware we live in an era where Donald Trump is president of the United States. In this era, people in all sorts of walks of life will go too far and cross lines to doing something inappropriate in debates about various issues.
    In sports, you can create an atmosphere where the ultra passionate fans do something where they cross the line and do something they might regret later.
    For the fans on both sides, have fun with the series. Make entertaining signs that support your team or heckle the other team.
Raiders fans cheer on their team at the Art Hauser Centre.
    Engage in chants saying someone from one team is better than someone from another team or an athlete from another sports league is one city is better than someone on the ice from the two sides.
    Engage in fun traditions like when the Art Hauser Centre plays “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” after every time the Blades lose there.
    Make mention that the family members of Raiders star right-winger Brett Leason are 7-0 in the post-season against Saskatoon based teams.
    Note that Love was veteran rugged defenceman of the expansion Everett Silvertips when they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to upset the Habscheid coached Kelowna Rockets 4-3 in the 2004 WHL Western Conference Championship series.
    Have fun, be smart, try to take care of each other and remember at the end of the day the two sides are just playing a game out there. It may sound strange to the fans on either side, but both Habscheid and Love are great guys and very accommodating to work with.

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