By Les Lazaruk
REGINA – The keys to the game were, in no particular order, score first; stay out of the penalty box and score on the power play.
Check, check and check for the Saskatoon Blades Wednesday night, something not a lot of people would’ve expected after being punished 7-3 back on Saturday in the same building by the same opponent!
Libor Hajek opened the scoring, Seth Bafaro’s first Western Hockey League goal came on the power play and the Bridge City Bunch killed off the only two Regina man advantages on the way to a 6-4 triumph.
This was an evening of two entirely different games within the 60 minutes. The first period was a track meet with the Blades leading 4-3 and only 22 shots on goal in total. But, the final two stanzas were much more defensive-minded.
“It was definitely the start that we wanted,” said Saskatoon forward Braylon Shmyr, who had a goal and three assists. “I thought it built into the second and showed going into the third as well.
“We kind of stayed composed. We had the lead and we had to play good offence, but more importantly good defence. That was our mind-set going into the second and third and I thought we did well.”
Shmyr’s line mates also had big nights as Cam Hebig scored twice and added two assists while Brad Goethals notched, what turned out to be, the game-winning goal and chipped in a helper in his first game playing right wing with the two overagers. In total, the trio posted 10 scoring points.
Ryan Kubic returned from a two-game injury absence to stop 27 of 31 shots for the goaltending victory. The now 2-4-0 Bridge City Bunch chased Pats’ starter Max Paddock with five goals on 14 shots in the first 25:03 after Paddock had made 18 saves for the victory back on Saturday. The loss dropped Regina to 3-4-1 for the season.
Pacman Points – Shmyr led all skaters with seven shots on goal. After being held pointless in the first two Blades’ games, the Calgary product is on a four-game goal and points streak with six goals amongst 11 points. It should come as no surprise that his production has happened with the return of Hebig, who missed the first two games due to suspension. The 20-year-old Saskatoon native has four goals and nine points on a four-game points streak.
Pats’ overage forward Matt Bradley extended his season-opening points streak to eight games with a goal and a helper, giving him eight tallies and eight assists for 16 points. However, Finnish rookie Emil Oksanen was held off the scoresheet, ending his points streak at six games.
Tanner Sidaway was in the Regina lineup, wearing #11. The 18-year-old Victoria product was acquired Tuesday from Kootenay for 19-year-old winger Jeff de Wit…and drove 11 hours Wednesday from Cranbrook, B.C., to Regina, making it with a few hours to spare before opening faceoff.
The victory for Saskatoon ended a five-game, head-to-head, losing streak against the Pats…the previous Bridge City Bunch victory also came at the Brandt Centre on December 10, 2016, a 2-1 overtime decision.
With Kubic returning to action, the Blue and Gold returned 16-year-old netminder Nolan Maier to the Yorkton Terriers of the S-J-H-L. Maier stopped 34 of 41 shots in his WHL debut in the 7-3 loss to Regina on Saturday.
The Pats were without 19-year-old defenceman Liam Schioler who was serving the first of a two-game suspension for his check from behind penalty Saturday that sidelined Dach. Defencemen Parker Gavlas, plus forwards Cole Muir and Duncan Pierce were healthy scratches while Regina remains without veteran wingers Nick Henry and Austin Wagner…both with Upper Body injuries…while centre Riley Krane is sidelined by a Lower Body ailment.
The Blades next action is Friday in Medicine Hat. They stayed Wednesday night in Regina and will travel Thursday to the Hat. The three games-in-four nights road trip ends Saturday in Red Deer.