Sunday, 7 January 2018

Blades winning streak falls due to hectic schedule

Saskatoon goes down gutty playing third game in 48 hours

Chase Wouters and the Blades were in tough on Sunday.
    The WHL schedule maker might have gained an assist in bringing the Saskatoon Blades winning streak to an end.
    On Sunday, the Blades played their third game inside of 48 hours over a three day span, when they traveled to Brandon to take on the Wheat Kings for a 4 p.m. engagement. Saskatoon had a seven game winning streak intact going into Brandon.
    After downing the Kootenay Ice 4-2 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon on Saturday night, the Blades stepped off the ice at around 9:20 p.m., and proceeded to eat, load up the bus and head out to Brandon. They arrived in Brandon at about 5 a.m. on Sunday and rested up as much as they could for a contest that was less than 11 hours away.
    The Wheat Kings came into the game having Saturday off after defeating the visiting Swift Current Broncos 3-2 in overtime on Friday night at Westman Place.
    Going into Brandon to win against the Wheat Kings is difficult at the best of times, but it is almost near impossible under the circumstances the Blades were facing.
    As has been the case all season, the Blades brought all that they could on that night, and the found themselves locked in a 3-3 tie after winger Chase Wouters scored his second of the night at the 11:32 mark of the third. All of a sudden, a Wheat Kings victory was by no means a given.
    Still, the expected Brandon victory in that scenario came to pass. Ty Lewis, who is Brandon’s 19-year-old star winger, scored his second goal of the night with 1:56 to play in the third to give the Wheat Kings a 4-3 lead. Centre Stelio Mattheos scored his 29th goal of the season into an empty net 47 seconds later to seal a 5-3 victory for the host side before 3,051 spectators at Westman Place.
    The Wheat Kings improved to 27-12-0-1 with the win, while the Blades fell to 21-18-2-1 as their seven game winning streak came to an end. Both teams are currently holding playoff positions.
Ryan Kubic made 25 saves in goal for the Blades.
    Brandon took a 3-1 lead in the first period off of Lewis’s first goal of the contest and singles from the sticks of Connor Gutenberg and Tanner Kaspick. Star overage winger Braylon Shmyr had the lone reply for Saskatoon in the opening 20 minutes.
    While the Blades were down, they didn’t pack it in. Wouters scored his first of the night in the second period to cut the Wheat Kings lead to 3-2. Brandon only held an 18-15 edge in the shots on goal department over the first 40 minutes despite being more rested than Saskatoon.
    Fatigue finally caught up to the Blades in the third period. Wouters managed to tie the contest in the third, but the Wheat Kings carried play in the frame holding a 12-3 edge in shots on goal.
    The Blades needed one more positive bounce somewhere to escape with victory, but it never came. Ryan Kubic turned away 25-of-29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades. Logan Thompson stopped 15 shots to pick up the win in the Wheat Kings net.
    Defensive defenceman Jackson Caller had assists on all three Saskatoon goals.
    All WHL teams face hectic parts in their schedules, but hopefully situations like the Blades faced this past weekend become less of a norm next season, when the regular season schedule shrinks from 72 games to 68 contests for each club.
    While four fewer games might not seem like a big decrease, it will create more situations were teams play on a Saturday night and get to be off until Wednesday. Playing three games in less than 48 hours increases the chances a player could be injured in the third game just due to fatigue. If you can lessen the chances of doing that, it is always a good thing.
Jackson Caller had three assists for the Blades on Sunday.
    In the current day of the WHL, players seem to be more connected with their families thanks to social media. When teams play on Saturday and proceed to be off until Wednesday, a large number of teams make Saturday a non-curfew night. Players in the current day often spend those nights going out for dinner at a nice restaurant with their families and having a quality visit.
    When the 68-game regular season schedule comes into effect, it should provide a few more chances to play on Saturday and be off until Wednesday.
    You won’t be able to loosen up all the hectic parts of the WHL schedule, but the 68 game regular season schedule should ensure there are less moments where teams play three times in less than 48 hours. That small move should do wonders for competitive balance.
    The Blades return to action on Wednesday, when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.

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