Dress Rehearsals 3,4 & 5…Blades prevail 2-1 in best-of-3 pre-season series with Raiders

Saturday, September 9

WARMAN, Sk. – If Cameron Hebig did one thing, in front of a predominantly Saskatoon Blades-biased crowd, he gave those folks a lot to think about when it comes to which overage player should be the odd man out with the Bridge City Bunch.

“It’s probably the biggest decision I’ve had to make with our staff here in the last two years,” admitted General Manager Colin Priestner after Saskatoon product Hebig scored three times as the Blue and Gold downed the Prince Albert Raiders 5-2. “What the ramifications are, what the return is. There’s complicated, moving parts.”

For the first time since his father, Mike Priestner, purchased the Blades’ franchise from the Brodsky family four years ago, Colin Priestner and Saskatoon are blessed (cursed?!) with having four quality 20-year-old players, and only three can be wearing a “Pacman” jersey beyond October 10.

“We’ve got one of the best goalies (Logan Flodell); one of the best mean, shut-down defenceman (Evan Fiala) and two of the most elite forwards in the league (Hebig and Braylon Shmyr) and, unfortunately, we can only keep three!” continued the Bridge City Bunch G.M.

Hebig found himself on the same line as Shmyr and the Calgary product chipped in four assists. Plus, Flodell stopped 30 of 32 P.A. shots in his first action of the pre-season. Fiala was the odd overager out on this occasion.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Hebig with regards to the Blue and Gold’s 20-year-old situation. All we (Hebig and Shmyr) can do is play and we did that (Saturday). We had some good chemistry, so that was good.”

Gage Ramsay and Kirby Dach also tallied for Saskatoon, now 3-2-0 in the pre-season, while Sean Montgomery scored both goals for 1-2-0 Prince Albert. All three Raiders’ games have been against the Blades, which likely led to the chippiness as the contest wore on. In the end, there were 25 minor penalties, 14 to P.A., and just one set of fighting majors. The Bridge City Bunch were 2-for-10 on the power play while the Raiders were 1-for-7 with the man advantage.

Friday, September 8

PRINCE ALBERT – Sean Montgomery’s back-to-back goals, five minutes apart in the final 10 minutes of the third period, propelled the Raiders to a 3-2 WHL pre-season victory over the visiting Blades Friday night.

The 19-year-old veteran forward’s tallies snapped a “sleepy” 1-1 tie. Carson Miller opened the game’s scoring for the other Raiders marker. Seth Bafaro and Josh Paterson replied with power play goals for the Bridge City Bunch.

“We had some chances, especially in the second period, maybe 4-on-4. We didn’t create a lot in the first (period),” said Head Coach Dean Brockman. “I didn’t think we competed real well in the first either. But, I thought we were better as the game went on and in the third period, we were just kind of there. You just can’t be ‘there’, you’ve got to be more ‘on’ than ‘off'”

Curtis Meger was sharp in goal for Prince Albert, stopping 20 shots as the Raiders out-shot the Blue and Gold 29-22. Saskatoon shared their goaltending Friday. Nolan Maier started and stopped 17 of 18 shots while Joel Grzybowski blocked nine of 11 shots in the second half of the contest as the two battle to be the Number 2 man behind 20-year-old Logan Flodell. The Blades were two-for-six on the power play while P-A was zero-for-two.

Sunday, September 3

PRINCE ALBERT – In what was billed as a “rookie” game, sophomore Michael Farren snapped a 3-3 tie with 1:49 remaining in the third period to give the Blades a 4-3 victory over the Raiders.

The rosters for both sides were very young with the average age of the Bridge City Bunch roster at 16.5 while P-A’s average was 16.9. However, the Raiders dressed 13 of 20 players who had played at least one regular-season game in the W-H-L while the Blue and Gold had 10 players with previous WHL experience in the lineup. Koen MacInnes, who just signed with the Blades earlier this week, stopped 24 of 26 shots for the victory.

“I was nervous. I was excited, a bit scared. It was just a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions,” said the 15-year-old Burnaby, B-C product. “But, I’m happy to get (my WHL debut) out of the way. I’m happy to get the win.”

Saskatoon’s second round selection in the 2017 Bantam Draft left the game at 7:36 of the first period because of a broken skate buckle on his pads. Nolan Maier played 7:29 until MacInnes was able to return.

Ethan Mack, Arjun Atwal and Payton McIsaac were also able to beat Prince Albert’s top goaltender Ian Scott. The Raiders out-shot the Bridge City Bunch 30-28. Neither team scored on the power play…the Blue and Gold on five chances and P-A with four. Both teams scored a short-handed goal, McIsaac for Saskatoon and D-Jay Jerome for the Raiders. Nikita Krivokrasov and Spencer Moe also tallied for Prince Albert.

Pacman Points – The Blades reduced their roster back on Tuesday, leaving 32 players on their pre-season list, three goaltenders, 11 defencemen and 18 forwards. None of the five players sent home had any WHL regular-season experience…2001-born forwards Ethan Mack and Brady Nicholas plus goaltender Koen MacInnes and fellow 2002-born prospects, forwards Kyle Crnkovic and Braden Plaschewsky.

As of Saturday, here’s what the 2017-18 roster looked like…

FORWARDS (18):

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Braylon Shmyr (97)* Cameron Hebig (97)* Josh Paterson (99)
Lukas MacKenzie (99) Kirby Dach (01) Michael Farren (00)
Gage Ramsey (98) Logan Christensen (99) Brady Goethals (98)
Cole Johnson (98) Chase Wouters (00) Caleb Fantillo (98)
Arjun Atwal (99) Brandon Machado (00) Matt Mosher (00)
Dryden Michaud (98) Tyler Lees (00) Logan Doust (01)#

DEFENCE (10):

Left Defense Right Defense
Libor Hijek (98)^ Evan Fiala (97)
Jackson Caller (99) Seth Bafaro (00)
Mark Rubinchik (99)^ Zach Ashton (01)#
Jake Kustra (99) Jantzen Leslie (99)
Majid Kaddoura (01)# Payton MacIssac (00)

2002-born Aidan de la Gorgendiere was still with the team Saturday, but is not eligible to be a full-time player this season.

 

GOALIES (3):

Goalies
Logan Flodell (97)*
Joel Grzybowski (99)#
Nolan Maier (01)#

 

^=import player

*=overage player

#has yet to play a W.H.L. game

 

One of the more interesting notes from the week came on Wednesday when Libor Hajek’s travel destination changed from the Gulf Coast to Music City. With Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida, the NHL rookie tournament, set for Estero, Florida, was cancelled. Instead, Hajek and the rest of the Tampa Bay rookies, travelled to Nashville and are, currently, playing a series of exhibition games against the Predators’ freshmen through Tuesday. After that, the 19-year-old Czech import defenceman is expected to attend Bolts’ main training camp. Also heading off to a main camp is fellow Saskatoon Blades’ blue-liner Evan Fiala. He leaves Wednesday for Traverse City, Michigan and Detroit’s main camp. There’s no word on when the two will return, but the Bridge City Bunch open the regular-season on September 22.

The Blades finish their pre-season schedule on Saturday, Sept. 16 against the Oil Kings in the downtown or community rink within Edmonton’s spacious Rogers Place. Game time is 7 p.m. and there will be a radio broadcast on CKBL-FM (92.9 THE BULL) beginning at 6:30.

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Les Lazaruk

I’m a veteran of 38 years in the sports media, 37 of them in radio. The last 23 years have been in Saskatoon and the play-by-play voice of the Blades since the fall of 1994, having called over 1,700 games