It may have been preseason but it was still a night of firsts for some members of the Saskatoon Blades as the team squeaked out a 4-3 win over the visiting Winnipeg Ice at the SaskTel Centre.
Acquired from the Victoria Royals the week prior to training camp, defenseman Scott Walford donned one of the A’s for Saskatoon. He also found the back of the net for the first time in a blue and gold uniform while later notching his first assist with the Blades.
‘’My goal, that was all Riley McKay. When you have a good screen like that and a goalie can’t see it you just move it around him,’’ Walford said following the teams win. ‘’And sometimes you get a lucky bounce as my first shot was blocked and Riley once again kinda sweeped it to Colton and Colton put it in. Sometimes you get some nice bounces with good teammates so it was a good feeling but its preseason so we still got to iron out some more kinks and hopefully we can carry that over into the regular season.’’
Also collecting his first point in a Blades uniform on the Walford goal was Czech Republican import defenseman Libor Zabransky who spent the past couple seasons with the Kelowna Rockets.
Another player who collected not only his first goal with the Blades but his first goal at the Western Hockey League level was Saskatoon`s 2019 Bantam Draft selection Brandon Lisowsky who enters the final preseason matchup with one goal and three assists in four games.
Scoring twice for the Blades as well was Saskatoon`s first round selection in the 2018 Bantam Draft in Colton Dach who barring anything unforeseen will crack the roster as a 16-year-old.
Another dominating player in the game, at least until being assessed a 10-minute misconduct for a mouth guard infraction, was 17-year-old Kyle Crnkovic who once again showed fans and coaches he can make up for some of the scoring lost from last season as he finished with two assists to bring him up to seven points in just three games played. That’s a pace which would see him score more than 110 points in the 68 game WHL season.
Meanwhile the Blades power play continued to struggle with Saskatoon heading into the game a measly one for 11. That percentage wasn’t helped much as the bridge city bunch only managed two goals on a whopping nine power play opportunities bringing their total up to a meager three for 20. However, Blades head coach Mitch Love pointed out post game that the team has only really practiced its power play once all training camp and when, or if, the players (Chase Wouters – Anaheim, Eric Florchuk – Washington, Kirby Dach – Chicago) away at NHL camps return they be able to solidify their two units and practice more.
Much like the game versus the Prince Albert Raiders, Saskatoon came out flat in the second period and allowed Winnipeg back in it early with Cole Muir scoring first followed by former Blade Reece Harsch who made it a one goal game with time winding down on an ICE power play. Jakin Smallwood was the other goal scorer for Winnipeg.
Also, like the Blades previous game, goaltending was a deciding factor. Veteran ‘tender Nolan Maier made 30 saves on 34 shots faced with more than a few of them being good, quality scoring opportunities for Winnipeg.
With only one preseason game remaining the Blades roster is nearing its final cuts which Love said has some in the dressing room feeling nervous. Especially since some have never been cut before. Love added after some of the miscues on the blue line there are some players who need to prove themselves more in the team’s final preseason game. The game is a rematch versus the Winnipeg ICE at the SaskTel Centre Saturday.
The Blades open the regular season on the road in P.A. on September 20th with the two teams meeting again for Saskatoon`s home opener on September 21st. Confirmed attendees for the home opener include Blades alumnus Wendel Clark and former NHLer and Spittin Chiclets podcast host Paul Bissonette.
Saskatoon went a lowly 2-for-9 on the power play while Winnipeg went 1-for-4. Saskatoon won the faceoff battles securing 57% of the wins. None of Saskatoon’s goal scorers were on the Blades roster last season .