Sunday, 11 February 2018

Blades’ Maier robs Pats

Blades G Nolan Maier, right, stops Pats C Matthew Bradley.
    Nolan Maier made enough saves to fill sports highlight reels for a week.
    On Sunday at the Credit Union Centre, the rookie netminder, who turned 17-year-olds in early January, stole the show helping the Saskatoon Blades post a 2-1 WHL regular season victory over the Regina Pats after a tiebreaking shootout before 3,647 spectators. Maier turned away 38 shots through regulation and overtime, and it seem most of the chances against him were high quality ones.
    The Yorkton, Sask., product stopped five of the seven shooters in the tiebreaking shootout, which the Blades claimed 3-2 after seven rounds.
Nolan Maier deflects a shot away from the Blades net.
    In what has been a sensational rookie campaign, Maier said he didn’t know where Sunday’s performance would rank with the other games he has played. He admitted he does get a little extra motivation when he hears how much his team’s fans get up for games against the Pats.
    “All I know is that I really love playing Regina just the intensity that it brings and the crowds that it gets,” said Maier. “It is just really good for our organization, when we come out on top against them.
    “Whenever we play a better team, I obviously want to get in there and show what I can do.”
    Maier didn’t have any problem showing what he could do in Sunday’s win. After centre Logan Christensen scored on a power play in the first period to give the Blades a 1-0 lead, momentum seemed to be firmly entrenched on the side of the Pats through the second, third and overtime periods.
Nolan Maier makes a glove stop for the Blades.
    In the second period, Maier denied Pats 16-year-old centre Logan Nijhoff in close, turned away superstar centre Sam Steel a short-handed chance and made a pad stop on Pats star centre Jake Leschyshyn on a short-handed breakaway.
    The Pats finally broke through on the scoreboard at the 3:25 mark of the third, when centre Matthew Bradley wired a point shot through a screen to the top left corner of the Blades goal to force a 1-1 tie. Bradley’s tally wasn’t able to spark an offensive surge for the visitors.
    Despite how the game was playing out on the ice with the Pats controlling play after the first period, Blades right-winger Michael Farren said his side never got discouraged.
Blades G Nolan Maier, left, keeps Pats RW Bryce Platt at bay.
    “All our guys kept focused,” said Farren. “We took some unlucky bounces in the second and third.
    “We got the win. We squeezed it out. That is what we do. We have to keep going.
    “We always have a positive mindset on the bench.”
    A short time later, Maier made a big glove stop on Pats overage right-winger Cameron Hebig to resume the work of miraculous stops.
    The netminder’s best work came in overtime after Pats 17-year-old rookie netminder Max Paddock turned away Blades defenceman Dawson Davidson on a breakaway early in the frame.
    Following the stop on Davidson, the Pats quickly transitioned up ice resulting in a breakaway by Steel, but last season’s WHL MVP was denied by Maier’s glove hand.
Logan Christensen, left, celebrates scoring for the Blades.
    Maier proceeded to turn away Hebig twice. One was a kick stop when Hebig tried to cut across alone in front of the Blades goals to score, and the second rejection came when Maier lunged across the crease for a kick save to rob Hebig on a backdoor chance.
    Shortly before overtime ended, Maier turned away Steel again with a right shoulder stop.
    “I think it was a little different,” said Maier of the overtime period. “Other games that I have been in OT I feel like I haven’t had as many shots as I did this time.
    “I just try to approach it the same. I just really strive for these kind of games. I really have fun in it.”
    In the tiebreaking shootout, Braylon Shmyr and Chase Wouters scored for the Blades, while Hebig and Jesse Gabrielle replied for the Pats through the first six rounds.
    Right-winger Michael Farren scored the winner for the Blades roofing home a shot to the top right corner of the Pats goal that dislodged the water bottle on top of the net.
Pats captain Sam Steel was held pointless on Sunday.
    Defenceman Josh Mahara was forced to shoot wide by Maier on the Pats shooting opportunity in the seventh round to deliver the overall win to the Blades in the contest.
    Blades head coach Dean Brockman said he was impressed with how Maier always seems to play at an elite level. The bench boss said he remembered Maier’s first regular season start back on Oct. 7, 2017, when the Blades were shelled 7-3 in Regina by the Pats. Maier made 34 saves that night but wasn’t disheartened by how the contest played out.
    “He (Maier) gives us a chance to win every night,” said Brockman, whose team has won five of seven head-to-head meetings with the Pats. “He is a really special kid.
Michael Farren scores the shootout winner for the Blades.
    “He is dialed in, and he has kind of got their number a little bit. Ever since the first game he played there and he didn’t do so well, I just remember talking with him. He didn’t lose any of his confidence, and I’m just really proud of him with the way he played.”
    Paddock turned away 28 shots fired his way through 65 minutes and four of seven shooters in the tiebreaking shootout playing goal for the Pats. Regina was without regular starting netminder Ryan Kubic due to illness. Jacob Wasserman, who plays junior A in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the Humboldt Broncos, dressed as the Pats backup goalie.
Blades mascot Poke Check, right, salutes goalie Nolan Maier.
    The Blades improved to 28-26-2-1 with the win to hold the second wildcard berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a four point lead on the Prince Albert Raiders (22-23-9-2). The Raiders have a game in hand on the Blades.
    The Pats record moved to 29-23-5-1 and they hold the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a five point lead on Saskatoon. The Blades have a game in hand on the Pats.
    The Blades now head out on a four-game road trip, which starts Wednesday in Cranbrook, B.C., against the Kootenay Ice.
    Brockman said he wants his team to hit another gear to push to collect wins on the road. He said he wants his team to score more goals, be better on the power play and clean up a lot of other little areas.
    “The whole thing is you strive for perfection,” said Brockman. “Until you get there, you are still always going to work on things.”

Greschner’s team goals record broken in Stars victory

Mackenna Parker had a hat trick on Sunday for the Stars.
    Sara Greschner’s Saskatoon Stars team record for most goals scored in one regular season was broken twice on Sunday.
    Back in 2010-11, Greschner scored 28 goals in 28 regular season games to set the record for most goals in one regular season by a member of the Stars female midget AAA hockey team. In the Stars 8-3 victory over the Regina Rebels on Sunday at the Agriplace Arena, both Grace Shirley and captain Mackenna Parker eclipsed Greschner’s standard.
    Shirley was the first to vault past Greschner scoring her 29th goal of the season at the 1:47 mark of the second period.
    Parker recorded a hat trick in the win scoring once in the first period and twice in the second period to sit with 30 goals on the campaign. The skilled centre leads the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League in scoring with 30 goals and 27 assists for 57 points in 21 appearances.
    She is closing in on the Stars team record for most points scored in one regular season set by Emily Clark in the 2011-12 campaign. Clark, who is playing for Canada’s women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics that are underway in PyeongChang, South Korea, had 26 goals and 34 assists for 60 points in her record setting season with the Stars.
    Kaitlin Jockims, Makena Kushniruk, Calli Arnold and Jordyn Holmes all had singles for the Stars. 
Grace Shirley scored her 29th goal of the season for the Stars on Sunday.
    Standout winger Anna Leschyshyn had three assists for Saskatoon to become the third players in the history of the Stars to record 50-or-more points in one regular season after Clark and Parker.
    Leschyshyn sits second in SFMAAAHL scoring with 22 goals and 29 assists for 51 points appearing in all of the Stars 26 regular season games.
    Ally Kosteniuk, Miranda Hatt and Lauren Focht all netted singles for the Rebels.
    Arden Kliewer made 26 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Chantel Weller turned away 27 shots to take the setback in goal for the Rebels.
    With the win, the Stars improve to 22-3-1 to sit first overall in the SFMAAAHL with a four-point edge in the standings over the defending league champion Prince Albert Northern Bears, who are 20-5-1.
Anna Leschyshyn has recorded 51 points this season for the Stars.
    In the SFMAAAHL, three points are awarded in the standings for regulation wins, two points for extra time wins and one point for extra time setbacks.
    The Stars have 64 points in the standings coming off 19 regulation wins, three extra time wins and one extra time setback. The Bears have 60 points in the standings coming off 19 regulation wins, one extra time win and one extra time setback.
    Both the Stars and Bears have two games remaining on their respective regular season schedules, and the Stars need to earn three more points in the standings to clinch first place for a fourth straight year.
    The Rebels fell to 16-8-3 with the loss.
    The Stars return to action this coming Saturday, when they host the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at 7:45 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

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