The playoff picture has suddenly become a lot tighter in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
Welcoming the league-leading Moose Jaw Warriors to Sasktel Centre on Sunday, the Saskatoon Blades were in tough, skating to a 4-2 loss.
After two Blades’ losses over the weekend, The Prince Albert Raiders are only two points behind with a game in hand.
Head coach Dean Brockman said that every game remaining on the schedule will be the difference between his team making the playoffs or cleaning out their lockers.
“I just told the group, really, our season comes down to the next nine games.”
“That’s what it’s all about.”
The Blades began the game with an energetic pace that was missing when they slowly let a four-goal lead slip away to the Regina Pats on Friday.
Less than seven minutes into the first period, the Blades held a 9-4 shot lead over the Warriors, the ninth shot coming on Braylon Shrymr’s 33rd goal of the season as he stuffed home a rebound after Moose Jaw scored 1:52 into the game on a similar play.
The shots kept coming for both teams in the second period, but Moose Jaw was the team to take advantage of the shot taking, scoring twice on two-on-one plays.
First, it was Brayden Burke snapping a wrist shot past Blades’ goaltender Nolan Maier after fanning on his pass attempt.
Burke then capped his two goal and one assist night by taking a backdoor feed as Maier committed to the puck carrier almost ten minutes later.
The Blades were able to claw within one of the high-octane Warriors in the third.
Josh Patterson started the comeback just under eight minutes in with his 100th career WHL point, deflecting home a Jake Kustra point shot.
Shmyr missed the Blades best chance to even the game up with 2:11 left in the game, as he couldn’t get his stick on a waiting puck in the Warrior crease.
After the game, Shmyr said he hit a skate when he went to bat it in.
Brockman had another theory.
“We’ve probably had our share of goals that went in that shouldn’t have, so maybe that’s the hockey gods not looking after us there,” he said.
The Warriors iced the game with 56 seconds left on a Jayden Halbgewachs empty net goal to send the 3,662-person crowd home early.