By Les Lazaruk
What was dormant for three games came alive and was responsible for a badly-needed Saskatoon Blades’ victory Tuesday night.
The bridge city bunch broke a string of 13 consecutive power play chances without scoring by notching four goals on seven opportunities in a wild and wooly 6-5 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. That snapped a four-game losing streak for the blue and gold as their record improved to 32-31-3 – good for 67 points, two back of Prince Albert for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It was the difference in the game, for sure,” stated head coach Dean Brockman about the importance of the Blades man advantage prowess. “The guys executed and did a really good job.”
The power play gave Saskatoon a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals from Michael Farren and Eric Florchuk. Another man advantage tally, this time by Max Gerlach late in the second period gave the Bridge City Bunch the lead again at 4-3 after Edmonton rallied from a 3-0 deficit early in the middle frame to tie the score. And, Braylon Shmyr’s rebound goal on a 5-on-3 man advantage in the third period turned out to be the game-winner. Josh Paterson and Dawson Davidson also produced markers for the blue and gold with Davidson adding three assists for a four-point game. Centre Kirby Dach also chipped in three helpers.
“The big thing for us was winning the game,” said Brockman, obviously relieved at snapping the losing streak. “When you haven’t won for a little while…when you’re fighting confidence and all those things…bottom line is, you’ve got to win the game.”
Kobe Mohr, Carter Souch, Brett Kemp, Conner McDonald and Colton Kehler replied for the 19-39-8 Oil Kings, who were out-shot 36-31 and were 1-for-5 on the power play. Edmonton continues into P.A. Wednesday as the Raiders will use up their game-in-hand on the Blades and regain the four-point lead in the chase for the second wild-card playoff spot. Saskatoon is idle until Friday when they are home to the Calgary Hitmen.
Pacman Points – The 67 points for the season is two more than the bridge city bunch had in all of the 2016-17 campaign. It’s also the most since the 94 points the 2012-13, Memorial Cup-host, edition of the Blades put up in winning the East Division pennant.
The Oil Kings went into Tuesday’s game with the exact same record (19-38-8) as they had through 65 games last season.
Shmyr’s goal was his 35th of the season, equalling his career-high for a single campaign set last year. It was the 20-year-old’s sixth winning goal of the season. Tack on an assist and the Calgary product has 83 points, thanks to eight goals and four assists in the last eight games.
Davidson’s four-point game was his second of the season and first with Saskatoon. He led all Bridge City Bunch players with seven shots on goal while Edmonton’s captain Kehler had seven shots on goal as well.
Oil Kings’ Czech import forward Tomas Soustal recorded two assists in the game, giving him 100 helpers in his WHL career.
With an assist for each of Edmonton forward Trey Fix-Wolansky and rookie defenceman Matthew Robertson, they extended their respective consecutive-game points streaks to four games…Fix-Wolansky with three goals and five assists in that time, Robertson with a goal and three helpers.
Nolan Maier made 26 saves in goal for the blue and gold as he snapped a personal four-game losing streak in concert with the Blades’ drought. The freshman netminder from Yorkton has made seven straight starts in goal. At the other end, fellow 2001-born rookie goalie Boston Bilous stopped 30 shots. He has yet to record a WHL victory…with 10 losses and an extra time setback to his credit.
Saskatoon is injury-free at this time…head coach Brockman chose to sit defenceman Randen Schmidt plus left wingers Tyler Lees and Alec Zawatsky. The Oil Kings, on the other hand, sat eight players due to injury or illness…goaltenders Travis Child (season-ending shoulder surgery) and Todd Scott (lower-body); defencemen Will Warm and Jantzen Leslie (both Upper Body); forwards Brendan Semchuk (lower-body), David Kope (illness), Andrei Pavelnko (also season-ending shoulder surgery) and Ty Gerla (upper-body).
In the faceoff circle, the Blades won 36 of 63 draws, led by Chase Wouters who captured possession on 13 of 18 faceoffs. Brian Harris won four of eight trips to the dot to be Edmonton’s top man in the circle.