|Jackson Caller (#52) celebrates scoring a goal for the Blades.|
Defensive defenceman Jackson Caller wasn’t going to miss out on his chance for offensive glory.
Just 62 seconds after his Saskatoon Blades took a 3-2 lead in the second period over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday night at the SaskTel Centre, Caller’s eyes got big on a rush into the Prince Albert zone. Forwards Josh Paterson and Braylon Shmyr burst into the Raiders end down the right wing creating a lane for Caller to pinch into the zone and sit open on the left side of the Prince Albert net.
The Kamloops, B.C., product moved into that spot and tapped home a perfect feed across the face of the Raiders goal to give the Blades a 4-2 lead before 3,395 spectators. That score held up as the final outcome in the first game for both sides since returning from the WHL’s Christmas break.
|Jackson Caller is known more for his defence.|
“It was a great play by Patty (Josh Paterson) and Shmyrsy (Braylon Shmyr) to get up there, and I just saw an opening down in the low end there,” said Caller. “I just found the backdoor and luckily enough it came to me.
“I was just thinking put the puck in the net, just get it in for sure.”
Offensive forays are not Caller’s forte. His tally against the Raiders was only his second goal of the season and of his WHL career. The 18-year-old sophomore, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 189 pounds, is better known as a stay at home defensive defenceman.
He was pleased his decision to drive to the Raiders net resulted in a key insurance goal.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Caller, who has nine assists and is a minus-one in the plus-minus department in 35 games this season. “To get the 4-2 lead it put a little bit of a cushion on their guys. It was a good way to finish.”
Caller’s creativity in the offensive end was something that Blades head coach Dean Brockman was in favour of.
“(Defencemen) have to jump into the rush and make things happen,” said Brockman. “That is the way the game is played now, and we need more guys to do that and read the play.”
|Cameron Hebig scored twice for the Blades.|
Caller’s goal put the exclamation point on what was a solid night for the Blades. For much of the contest, the Blades got the puck in deep and forechecked the Raiders hard creating a number of turnovers.
Raiders 18-year-old star goalie Ian Scott made 38 saves to give his side a chance to pull the contest out.
The Blades jumped ahead 2-0 before the halfway point of the first period, when Paterson tipped home a point shot from Russian import defenceman Mark Rubinchik and star overage centre Cameron Hebig tucked home a power-play marker with a shot from the front of the Prince Albert goal.
The Raiders pulled even at 2-2 scoring two goals in a 38 second span before the first intermission rolled around. Brett Leason, an 18-year-old right-winger, netted the Raiders first goal of the surge on the power play, while overage centre Devon Skoleski scored on a breakaway.
Skoleski’s shot actually hit the post of the Saskatoon goal, deflected off Blades netminder Nolan Maier into the Saskatoon cage.
At the 12:16 mark of the second, the Raiders turned the puck over in their own zone to Blades winger Gage Ramsay. Ramsay set up Hebig for his second of night with a backdoor pass to give the hosts a 3-2 lead.
|Ian Scott makes one of his 38 saves for the Raiders.|
Caller added an insurance marker a short time later. Shmyr finished the night with three assists.
“I thought our guys played as good as they could,” said Brockman. “When you have all that time off and you only get a little bit of skate, it is tough sledding, and they persevered.”
The Raiders came with a big surge of pressure in the final two minutes of the third, which saw 18-year-old right-winger Parker Kelly ring a shot off the post. The visitors weren’t able to get any pucks past Maier.
Maier turned away 20 shots to pick up the win goal, and the 16-year-old puck stopper has won his last five straight starts for the Blades.
The Blades improved to 16-17-2-1, while the Raiders fell to 13-15-5-2.
|Braylon Shmyr had three assists for the Blades.|
Saskatoon’s victory was dampened by the fact 16-year-old standout forward Kirby Dach left the game with an injury. Brockman said Dach was taken off the ice as a precaution with an upper body injury and he was still being evaluated.
The bench boss was pleased to see his team get goals from the likes of Paterson and Caller to compliment the offensive output created by offensive stars like Hebig and Shmyr. Brockman really liked Paterson’s play on Wednesday night.
“That was one of his (Paterson’s) best games of the year,” said Brockman. “He was pretty persistent on the puck and did a lot of really good things.
|Blades D Mark Rubinchik (#6) checks Raiders RW Brett Leason (#20).|
“We need contributions from everybody, and they did it.”
The Blades and Raiders go at it again on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert to complete the home-and-home set.
“We just have to keep doing the same thing and not get too high,” said Caller. “It (the Art Hauser Centre) is a smaller rink for sure.
“You have to be a little bit more quicker with the puck out there. I am just looking forward to it tomorrow.”
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