Nichole Hansberger

Blades hold serve, even up series with Raiders at two

Thanks again to Nolan Maier.

Coming off a Game 3 shutout to give the Blades life in this series, he followed that effort up with a 43-save performance on Wednesday night as he continued his hot playoffs and the Blades to evened the series with the Prince Albert Raiders.

The most open period the Saskatoon Blades have played in the playoffs opened this game up.

The teams combined for 34 shots with most coming from the Raiders due to the four penalties the Blades took while the Raiders took two.

Prince Albert opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker from Dante Hannoun. The Blades were on one of their two power plays of the period when a Dawson Davidson pass was too short of Kirby Dach and picked off by Parker Kelly who sprung Hannoun on the breakaway and he beat Nolan Maier. Maier was otherwise outstanding in the first, stopping 21 shots.

Saskatoon’s best chance also came shorthanded when Gary Haden went in on a breakaway of his own but was stopped by Ian Scott. The Raiders led one to nothing after the first and out-shot the Blades 22-12.

“We got some real big saves from our goalie and kept it one nothing, getting into the intermission was big, he made some more big saves early in the second,” Blades head coach Mitch Love said of Nolan Maier keeping the game close.

Allen Douglas Photo

The second period was a tale of two halves. In the first half the Raiders were carrying most of the play and Nolan Maier kept it a one goal game.

With just under ten minutes left, big Justin Nachbaur got his stick up high behind the Blades net on Reece Harsch and the Blades headed to the power-play. A lot of zone time paid off just as the man advantage was about to expire. Ryan Hughes worked it around the top and left it for Max Gerlach who fired it short-side over the glove of Ian Scott.

Just over a minute later Gerlach found Tristan Robins cross-ice and he went in and shot in the same spot as Gerlach did and made no mistake. Giving the Blades the lead at 2-1 which is how the period finished.

“Obviously I’m counted on to produce offense, in a series like this with arguably the two top teams battling right now and goal scoring and chances are coming at a premium, I wasn’t able to contribute in the first couple games but helping the boys out feels good,” said Max Gerlach on scoring for the first time this series.

The third period resembled the one similar to Game 3 for the first 15 minutes. A few chances on either side with the Blades clinging to a one-goal lead.

A difference was Saskatoon got two power plays but couldn’t connect on either.

The last five minutes of the period saw the Blades get some much-needed breathing room.

Max Gerlach went in on a two-on-one and rang his shot off the post but stuck with it and tried stuffing the puck in on the other side. It was Kyle Crnkovic who was able to get his stick on it last and made the lead two goals for Saskatoon.

Eric Florchuk added an empty netter and this one finished 4-1 for the Blades.

“We got to go up there as a team and find a road win. Neither team in this series has won on the road so we’ve got to go up there in a building we haven’t had a lot of success in this year but we have to continue to grow as a group and fix a few things in our game and go and try to win a hockey game,” said Love on Game 5 in Prince Albert.

Game 5 goes on Friday night in Prince Albert and Game 6 goes Sunday afternoon in Saskatoon. The Edmonton Oil Kings await the winner of this series.

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