With just over two weeks left in the WHL regular season, the Saskatoon Blades are running out of time to qualify for the playoffs.
Saskatoon is in a battle with the Prince Albert Raiders to lock down the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Nine days ago, the Blades held an eight-point lead over the Raiders. Since that time, the Raiders rattled off four straight victories to even the two teams up at 65 points each.
Blades head coach Dean Brockman knows his team needs to play with extra urgency to have a chance at the post-season.
“Obviously, the next nine games are our season and however we fare in those are going to determine if we make the playoffs or not,” he said.
The rush to end the regular season begins on Friday when the Lethbridge Hurricanes arrive at Sasktel Centre before heading to Moose Jaw for another crack at the Raiders.
The Blades record against the Hurricanes has been one-sided, with Lethbridge holding a 12-2-1-0 advantage in the last five years.
“Certainly the start of the game is going to indicate some things. Really, it’s about playing with that urgency and desperation as if we’re in a playoff hunt,” Brockman said.
Goaltending will be a big part of the team’s success down the stretch, as eight of the remaining nine games will be on back-to-back nights.
Brockman wouldn’t lean one way or another on who he plans to use in net.
“It’s tough, you can get the fluke bug going through,” he said. “You want to make sure both guys are ready and we’ll see how it goes.”
Tyler Brown will likely get his share of playing time in the final days. The 20-year-old goaltender has largely played backup since the Blades picked him up at the trade deadline.
Rather than hoping for a storybook ending to his WHL career, he said he just hopes the team can string together some wins to end the year.
“I want to make the playoffs first,” Brown said. “That’s more important to this team.”
Brown was pulled less than five minutes into his last start, a 5-4 loss to the same Lethbridge Hurricanes on Feb. 16.
Regardless of who’s in net for the majority of the remaining contests, the message from the head coach will be the same: one game at a time.
“We really haven’t focused (on) too many games too far ahead,” Brockman said of the continuous back-to-back games.
“I think if you look too far ahead, you forget about the first game.”