Two late third period goals by the Kootenay Ice put a scare into the Saskatoon Blades, but in the end, they managed to hold out for a 5-3 victory at SaskTel Centre on Tuesday night.
The win puts the Blades two points ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders for the final playoff spot in the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Eastern Conference.
It was a much more focused and determined effort from the home side, something head coach Dean Brockman hopes to see continue ahead of a big stretch this weekend.
“Guys have a little bit more confidence,” he said. “That definitely has to continue.”
“As we win a game here, hopefully our confidence continues to grow.”
The Blades will start a crucial stretch of three games in three days on Friday in Brandon, before heading home and finishing the weekend against Prince Albert and Regina.
All three of those teams are either in or on the bubble of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference’s tight playoff race.
There was a sense of urgency to the Blades’ game on Tuesday night.
They were the quicker team from the drop of the puck and were able to use their speed to win races and battles all over the ice, putting the visitors on their heels for much of the first period.
But like a boxer hit with a barrage of punches early on in the fight, the Ice were able to weather the storm and eventually find their game.
Two goals in less than a minute late in the third period put a lump in the throat of the Blades’ faithful watching on.
However Chase Wouter’s empty-net goal with less than a minute remaining would bring a sense of relief to Blades’ fans.
The frustration from the Kootenay bench could be heard in the rink, with the sound of sticks and skates slamming against the boards echoing throughout SaskTel Centre.
Michael Farren notched two goals and Nolan Maier stopped 21 of 24 shots in the winning effort for Saskatoon.