The Saskatoon Blades, led by their rookie goaltender, staved off the defending Western Hockey League Champions Prince Albert Raiders 4-3 in their annual preseason matchup in Warman.
Facing 39 shots in the game and 19 in the third period alone, it’s safe to say rookie goaltender and 15-year-old Saskatoon native Ethan Chadwick was a big reason for the Blades victory.
“It was very nerve-wracking at first, but I felt once I got the first 10 minutes under me, I felt pretty good. Obviously, it was a packed atmosphere here so it was exciting,” Chadwick said, following the game.
Throughout the game, Chadwick was tested and made a few remarkable saves in close, flashing the leather and stretching the leg to keep the Blades ahead.
“The young Chadwick kid was pretty good tonight,” Blades head coach Mitch Love said of his goaltender’s performance. “I thought through (the first) 40 minutes he wasn’t overly tested. He had to make a big breakaway save, which was key, but the third period we took too many penalties and gave up too many opportunities, but he was there to shut the door, and that’s all you can ask for from him.”
“Its amazing. I’ve always dreamt of this as a kid, having season tickets with the team, and it’s like a dream come true,” Chadwick added.
Chadwick wasn’t the only rookie making an impact in the lineup. Another 15-year-old — the Blades’ first-round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Brandon Lisowsky — had a hat trick in assists playing on a line with 20-year-old overagers Ryan Hughes and Kyle Crnkovic. That line was responsible for three of the four goals with Crnkovic scoring two and adding a helper while Hughes netted one and assisted on another.
“We tried to practice with those line combinations during the week to get them that chemistry,” Love said. “The biggest thing I liked tonight about our young players and our veteran guys was their compete level. I thought they were very competitive on loose puck battles. That was a big thing leading into the hockey game tonight that we stressed.”
After losing scoring powers such as Dawson Davidson, Max Gerlach, and potentially not getting back Kirby Dach as he’s got a real chance of cracking the Chicago Blackhawks roster, players such as Crnkovic will be relied on to step up and produce even more this year. This is something Crnkovic said he welcomes.
Another Blade that stood out in the game, although held off the score sheet, was Saskatoon’s first-round selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Colton Dach. At 16 years old, Dach already stands over six feet tall and plays a very good defensive game while being able to adapt to new situations on the fly.
After starting training camp and the preseason on the wing, Dach was moved to center for this tilt — a position Love said he filled admirably.
“I thought he did really well at center for a guy who only practiced it a couple times this week at the Western Hockey League level.”
When asked if there’s any additional pressure on Colton being the younger brother of a third overall NHL draft pick, Love said the most important thing for Colton is to just be himself.
“They’re different hockey players, and when Colton’s involved physically, yapping and getting under guys’ skins and being a force physically, he’s hard to play against, and that’s his game and that’s what he’s gotta stick to,” Love said.
Ozzy Wiesblatt, Cole Nagy, and Spencer Moe had the goals for the Raiders.
The two teams will meet again to open the WHL season on September 20 in P.A., followed by the two squaring up again on September 21 for the Blades’ home opener, which will also welcome former NHLer and Spittin Chiclets podcast host Paul Bissonette to the SaskTel centre.
The two teams will meet a total of 10 times this season. After last season’s second-round series, the rivalry between the two clubs is renewed and stronger than ever.
Saskatoon continues its preseason games next weekend on Friday, September 13, and Saturday, September 14, when the Blades welcome the Winnipeg ICE to the SaskTel Centre.