Sunday, 6 January 2019

Harsch fitting in with Blades, nets goal in 5-2 win

Reece Harsch was recently acquired by the Blades via a trade with Seattle.
    Saskatoon Blades newcomer Reece Harsch showed how important it was to play to the whistle.
    On Sunday before 3,627 spectators at the SaskTel Centre, Harsch was skating in just his third game with the Blades as they took on the Brandon Wheat Kings. Harsch, who is a 19-year-old defenceman, was acquired in a trade last Wednesday with the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for 17-year-old defenceman Zach Ashton and a fifth round selection in the 2022 WHL Bantam Draft.
    With the Blades locked in a 1-1 tie in the first period with the Wheat Kings, Harsch found an opportune time to score his first goal with his new club.
    Left-winger Riley McKay, who is the Blades agitator, took a cross check behind the Wheat Kings goal from Brandon defenceman Vinny Iorio, and the officials were set to blow the whistle on a delayed penalty call as soon as a Brandon player touched the puck.
Reece Harsch scored his first goal with the Blades on Sunday.
    The Wheat Kings players on the ice seemingly stopped, when Iorio’s cross check occurred. Blades centre Josh Paterson had the puck at the left side of the Brandon goal, and he slipped a pass across the front of the net to Harsch, who pinched down from the point.
    Harsch skated to the Brandon net untouched and slipped a shot past Wheat Kings netminder Jiri Patera to give the Blades a 2-1 lead. Saskatoon ultimately skated to a 5-2 victory in the WHL regular season clash.
    “It was pretty special,” said Harsch, who has three goals and eight assists in 31 games played between the Thunderbirds and Blades this season. “It was a nice pass by Patty (Josh Paterson).
    “It was great vision by him. I was just able to slip it through the arms of him (Patera). What do you know, it went in.”
    Following his goal, Harsch realized something else must have happened on the play. Since McKay wasn’t hurt, Harsch’s goal was celebrated and the focus returned to the game.
The Blades celebrate Reece Harsch’s first period goal.
    “I didn’t really notice it until after I was just looking at the net to see if the puck actually went in,” said Harsch, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 198 pounds. “Then, I looked up and I just saw McKay laying on the ground.
    “I’m not really too sure what happened actually.”
    Harsch played three-and-a-half seasons with the Thunderbirds before arriving in Saskatoon. During his time in Seattle, he helped the Thunderbirds win a WHL title in the 2016-17 campaign and qualify for the Memorial Cup tournament, which was held that season in Windsor, Ont.
Goalie Jiri Patera (#33) makes one of his 32 saves on Sunday.
    With Saskatoon having finished a stretch of playing three games in three days on Sunday, Blades head coach Mitch Love said Harsch brought everything that was expected from a veteran presence. Saskatoon lost 19-year-old defenceman Nolan Kneen to a lower body injury in Friday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Regina Pats, which added extra significance to Harsch’s arrival.
    “He (Harsch) is a very calming influence back there,” said Love. “He doesn’t seem to be rattled by too much.
    “He is an experience guy who has been to a Memorial Cup and won a league championship here. I am sure there is not a lot that gets to him. That is the way he plays the game.
Nolan Maier makes one of his 27 saves in goal for the Blades.
    “He has definitely helped our back end, especially this weekend.”
    Harsch’s play has also impressed Blades captain Chase Wouters.
    “I thought he (Harsch) has played really well,” said Wouters. “He is a really good addition to the back end.
    “He is a right-handed shot that like to get pucks up early, and he is a big body out there. He helps us a lot.”
    “He won the championship there (in Seattle). He adds a piece to our group that we don’t have.”
    Harsch said he has been accepted really quickly into the group the Blades have.
    “It is awesome,” Harsch. “It is a little different coming to a (new) team. I only knew a couple of guys.
Max Gerlach scored the Blades first goal on Sunday.
    “Guys were so nice. They’ve been really helpful for me.”
    In Sunday’s contest, the Wheat Kings got a quick jump on the host side with left-winger Ben McCartney scoring 53 seconds into the contest to take a 1-0 lead.
    The Brandon lead didn’t last. Just under three minutes later, Blades overage right-winger Max Gerlach potted his 24th goal of the season to tie things up at 1-1.
    Harsch then potted his tally to give the Blades a 2-1 edge. With 43.3 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Wheat Kings star right-winger Luka Burzan scored on a two-man advantage to even things up at 2-2.
    From there, the Blades slowly took control of the game.
    At the 3:27 mark of the second period, the Blades jumped ahead 3-2, when Paterson slid home a goal underneath Patera.
Luka Burzan had the Wheat Kings second goal on Sunday.
    Saskatoon extended its advantage to 4-2 at the 7:45 mark of the third period, when right-winger Zach Huber knocked home a loose puck in the crease of the Brandon goal.
    Blades star netminder Nolan Maier made a sensational kick save on a breakaway by McCartney. Saskatoon import defenceman Emil Malysjev rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal with 33.8 seconds remaining in the third.
    After going ahead in the second period, Blades 17-year-old rookie defenceman Majid Kaddoura left the game for a short time, when he was hit by Wheat Kings right-winger Baron Thompson. Thompson received a major penalty for checking to the head and a game misconduct, and that play will be automatically be reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
    Kaddoura actually got cut on the play by his own stick. He finished the game after getting stitched up.
Zach Huber (#19) scores to put the Blades up 4-2 in the third period.
    Maier made 27 stops in goal for the Blades, who sit third overall in the WHL at 25-12-5. Patera turned away 32-of-36 shots to take the setback in goal for the Wheat Kings (16-15-3-3).
    “I really liked how our guys battled tonight,” said Love, whose team has played seven games in 11 days since returning from the WHL Christmas break. “I think it was evident.
    “We had a few guys leave the hockey game in stretches just because they put themselves in the battle. That was the big message going into today’s hockey game of just playing the game the right way the way we want to play with structure and what not.
    “At the same time, we just needed to be more competitive and have a little bit more fight, especially against a team that was sitting here waiting for us. I was very proud of our guys and our effort, and we are going to try and build off of that.”
The Blades celebrate their 5-2 win on Sunday.
    The Wheat Kings return home to host the Portland Winterhawks at 7 p.m. local time at Westoba Place.
    The Blades return to action on Tuesday when they host the Seattle Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. local time at the SaskTel Centre.
    Harsch said he has lots of good memories from his time in Seattle, and it will be strange for himself to face the Thunderbirds so soon after being traded to Saskatoon.
    “It is going to be different,” said Harsch. “I’ve been wearing that jersey for three-and-a-half years.
    “Now coming in and seeing all these familiar faces, it is going to be different, but it is going to be pretty special.”

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