Friday, 8 November 2019

Crnkovic busts drought, pushes Blades to 3-1 win

Kyle Crnkovic broke an 11-game goalless drought on Friday.
    Kyle Crnkovic felt like he slammed a monkey off of his back.
    The 17-year-old left-winger with the Saskatoon Blades was trying to end a goalless drought that spanned 11 games. The Chestermere, Alta., product was able to that by just going to the net on Friday night.
    With the Blades locked in a 1-1 tie early in the second period of a WHL regular season contest against the Red Deer Rebels and working on a power play, Crnkovic went to the front of the Red Deer goal and potted the rebound of a shot taken from Blades captain Chase Wouters to put the Saskatoon side up 2-1.
    Crnkovic’s goal turned out to be the winner as the Blades skated away with a 3-1 victory before 3,330 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
    “It has been quite a few games that I haven’t been able to score, but it was finally nice to get one,” said Crnkovic. “It was a big goal in the hockey game, so it was awesome.”
The Blades celebrate a goal from Kyle Crnkovic on Friday.
    Playing on a line centred by Eric Florchuk with Tristen Robins manning the right wing, Crnkovic said he had been getting his chances but was having no luck around the opposing goal.
    “They haven’t been going in for me,” said Crnkovic, who has five goals and six assists appearing in all of the Blades 19 regular season games. “They’ve been scoring, which is good.
    “As long as we win games, that is all that really matters.”
    Blades head coach Mitch Love was pleased to see Crnkovic break through on the scoreboard. With Crnkovic being in the Blades top six forward group, Love said they are looking for offence from the young winger.
    The bench boss added his talented forward is still in his second year in the league and will still experience some growing pains.
Kyle Crnkovic has five goals and six assists in 19 games this season.
    “He is a guy we want to rely on offensively for our group,” said Love. “He is a young player.
    “He is still finding his way in this league. Last year, he was in a third and fourth line role and maybe he didn’t get a chance to play against some of those older players or older veteran D in the league. Now, he is getting that, and it is hard.”
    Love said Crnkovic is learning the importance of driving to the net, even when he doesn’t have the puck, and that tactic will result in dividends.
    “You have to get to the inside of the rink,” said Love. “You have to go to the net.
    “I think that was evident there on the power-play goal. Wouters just throws it there, and he (Crnkovic) beats their D to the net, and the next thing you know it goes in the back of the net. That is no coincidence.”
Rebels G Byron Fancy (#35) turns away Blades LW Riley McKay (#39).
    Friday’s clash was a competitive one with the Rebels. The Blades broke through on the scoreboard first, when import defenceman Radek Kucerik floated home his first career WHL goal with a shot from the point at the 8:03 mark of the opening frame.
    The Rebels evened things up at 1-1 with 5:21 remaining in the first period on a smart play by 17-year-old left-winger Dallon Mellin. Mellin followed linemate Jace Isley to the Saskatoon goal and potted the rebound from Isley’s shot for the equalizer.
    Inside of the final minute of the opening frame, Rebels right-winger Arshdeep Bains was denied on two big chances to put his side ahead. 
Eric Florchuk scored the Blades third goal on Friday.
    First, he entered the Saskatoon zone coming down the left wing, cut across the front of the Blades goal, but his shot was denied by the glove hand of Blades star netminder Nolan Maier.
    Just seconds after that chance, Bains drove a shot on goal from the front of the Saskatoon net, but Maier caught the puck in his mid section to deny the chance.
    “I like their game over there,” said Love. “They’re always competitive.
    “They are engaged in the hockey game. I felt like after we scored our first goal we sat back, and they elevated their game. We weren’t ready to match that.
    “We talked about that in intermission where we needed to get to be in this hockey game and stay in this hockey game all night.”
    The Blades came out with more jump in the second with Crnkovic netting his power-play goal at the 3:06 mark of the frame.
Nolan Maier made 28 saves in goal for the Blades on Friday.
    Just under four minutes later, Florchuk wired home a power-play goal from the left corner boards of the offensive zone to the top right corner of the Red Deer goal to give the host side a two-goal edge.
    Maier said the power-goals his club scored early in the second helped turn the game around.
    “I think it was huge,” said Maier. “I think just getting that first goal really kind of helps us and kind of strives our confidence towards the whole game.
    “I think those are really big for us obviously.”
    The Rebels pushed back in the third, but Maier slammed the door in the Blades goal making a number of key saves down the stretch. One of the biggest came inside the final three minutes of the frame, when Maier robbed Rebels overage centre Brett Davis on a chance from the front of the Saskatoon net.
    Maier finished the contest making 28 saves to help the Blades improve to 10-7-1-1.
The Blades celebrate their win on Friday night.
    “He (Maier) is obviously the backbone for us,” said Crnkovic. “Every game he gives us a chance to win.
    “We don’t have to worry with him in net.”
    Byron Fancy turned away 20 shots taking the setback in goal for the Rebels (5-11-0-2).
    The Blades don’t have much time to enjoy Friday’s win.
    They return to action on Saturday, when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. The Rebels travel to Prince Albert on Saturday to face the defending WHL champion Raiders at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
    “They (the Wheat Kings) are always competitive,” said Maier. “They always give us a little bit of problems.
    “I think if we just kind of play our game and kind of work and compete for the full game then it will be a positive outcome.”

Bisons’ gamble classic coach Dobie showing guts

Bisons HC Brian Dobie always plays for the win.
    You have to love the courage of head coach Brian Dobie, even though his University of Manitoba Bisons football team failed to make the Canada West Conference title game due to an unsuccessful gamble.
    Last Saturday, Dobie’s Bisons were in Calgary, Alta., taking on the University of Calgary Dinos in a Canada West semifinal contest. The Dinos led 47-40, and the Bisons were down to throwing a Hail Mary attempt from the host side’s 50 yard line as the clock hit zero in the fourth quarter.
    Bisons quarterback Des Catellier threw the hail mary downfield looking for a miracle finish. About five players jumped up for the ball, and they ended up knocking it into the hands of Bisons receiver Trysten Dyce.
    Dyce caught the ball at the Dinos seven yard line and dashed into the end zone for a Bisons touchdown to cut the host side’s lead to 47-46.
    Instead of kicking a one-point convert to force overtime, Dobie elected to have his team go for a two-point convert and the win. The Bisons had already scored 30 points in the fourth quarter.
    On the two-point conversion attempt, Catellier threw a quick slant to Dyce. Dyce had his hands on the ball right at the goal line, but he couldn’t secure the catch.
    The ball squirted out of his hands and landed in the arms of Dinos defensive back Nick Statz. Statz ran the ball out of the end zone and went down to end the game.  
Trysten Dyce caught a 50-yard Hail Mary pass.
    With the 47-46 victory, the Dinos, who improved to 7-2 overall, advanced to host the Canada West Conference championship game – the Hardy Cup – this coming Saturday against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (6-3 overall).
    After the gamble that came up short, the Bisons concluded their season with a 4-5 overall record. Still, they would have had an upset win, if Dyce had been able to squeeze that two-point convert pass.
    The Bisons could have extended the game kicking a one-point convert and going to overtime. With that noted, it is more Dobie’s style to go for a two-point conversion and try to win the game in that situation.
    Dobie should be applauded for the aggressiveness and trying to get the win on one play instead of dragging the festivities out.

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