By Les Lazaruk
The ex-Blades may have found the scoresheet Saturday night. But, it was the ex-Pats who had the bigger smiles!
Eric Florchuk opened and finished the scoring in his first home game for Saskatoon…his second goal at 1:37 of overtime gave the Bridge City Bunch a 4-3 victory over Regina in front of 4,346 fans at SaskTel Centre.
Rookie Nolan Maier stopped 45 shots to back-stop the Blue and Gold to their fourth win in five meetings against the Queen City Kids this season.
It was the first contest between the Blades and Pats since they got together for two block-buster, multi-player trades on January 8 and January 10. Forward Cam Hebig had a goal and an assist while defenceman Libor Hajek added a helper for Regina. But, it wasn’t enough as former Pats defenceman Dawson Davidson and the rest of the Bridge City Bunch snapped a modest two-game losing streak and pulled within four points of the Queen City Kids for fourth place in the East Division and seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.
Surprisingly, neither veteran goaltender swapped in the January 10 trade between the Blades and Pats saw action Saturday. Ryan Kubic backed up Max Paddock for Regina while Tyler Brown was on the bench in case Maier faltered in the Saskatoon net.
The shot clock in the rink said the Pats out-shot the Bridge City Bunch 50-30, but the official tally was 48-32.
“Yeah, I’d take 50 over 48, but…,” said the recently-turned 17-year-old Yorkton product with a broad smile.
The Blue and Gold scored the first two goals…Florchuk’s first as a Blade and Chase Wouters with his 13th. But, Regina scored the next three goals to lead 3-2 after two periods…tallies from Jesse Gabrielle, Hebig and Sam Steel. However, Saskatoon captain and defenceman Evan Fiala went bar-down to tie the game with 7:38 remaining in the third period, forcing extra time and setting the stage for Florchuk’s winner…a goal-mouth deflection of a creative pass from Kirby Dach.
“Yeah, we did,” agreed Blades’ head coach Dean Brockman to the suggestion that his charges hung around and found a way to win. “Thanks to Nolan Maier. He was unbelievable (Saturday). Definitely he must’ve been (the) first star because they just kept coming and coming and coming…and we kind of hung around. I thought, for the most part, we worked pretty hard and we got a much better effort than we did earlier in the week. That’s a pretty good team over there.”
Saskatoon faces another “pretty good team”, with a quick turnaround, as they host the rested Moose Jaw Warriors Sunday afternoon. Moose Jaw had Saturday off and come to SaskTel Centre with the best record in the WHL at 37-7-3.
Pacman Points – There were seven minor penalties called in the game…five of them to the Bridge City Bunch. However, referees Derek Zalaski and Brayden Arcand didn’t assess a penalty after the 11:09 mark of the second period.
The Pats were 0-for-4- with the man advantage while the Blue and Gold didn’t register a shot on goal on their only man-advantage.
Florchuk’s two goals ended a 10-game goal-less drought, extending back to his time with Victoria.
Dach and Michael Farren returned to the Blades line-up after missing 10 and three games, respectively due to Upper Body injuries. Both had key assists in the game, Dach setting up Florchuk’s winner and Farren feeding Fiala for his open shot to knot the score.
Saskatoon is still without defenceman Mark Rubincik and right winger Caleb Fantillo because of Lower Body injuries. Rookie left winger Tyler Lees was a healthy scratch.
Regina was minus five players…centre Jake Leschyshyn and Finnish right winger Emil Oksanen (both with Upper Body injuries) and centre Scott Mahovlich (Lower Body). Veteran defenceman Liam Schioler did not play…with no reason given. Centre Koby Morrisseau is away from the Pats for bereavement reason due to the recent passing of his father.
Regina won 30 of 56 faceoffs for the 60 minutes with Steel winning 15 of 25 trips to the dot. Logan Christensen paced the Blades by capturing possession on six of seven draws.
The busiest individual shooters were Hebig of the Pats with seven shots on goal while Steel, Gabrielle and defenceman Cale Fleury had five shots each for Rergina. Florchuk, Wouters and Max Gerlach topped the Blades with four shots on goal apiece.