Sometimes it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. Just don’t tell that to the Saskatoon Blades.
The team came out with a ferocious start for a much-needed 6-5 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Less than a minute into the second period, Saskatoon found itself on top of Edmonton with a 3-0 lead, stealing pucks in the offensive zone and barely allowing a sniff of opportunity in its own end.
Even so, the Blades allowed the Oil Kings a glimmer of hope when they wasted a three-goal lead for the second time in five games. But unlike their Feb. 23 defeat at the hands of the Regina Pats, the Blades were able to navigate their way out of a loss Tuesday night.
Head coach Dean Brockman said it’s all part of the learning experience.
“Everybody was talking about that (Regina) game on the bench, so it’s certainly a positive that they learned from that,” he said. “If you don’t go through that earlier, maybe you panic a little bit more.”
Brockman chalked up some of the difficulties to the relative youth of his squad.
“With a younger group obviously you’re going to have some trouble.”
A place the Blades didn’t have trouble was the powerplay.
After nearly going a fourth game without a powerplay goal, the Blades scored on four of seven chances with the extra attacker to punish the Oil Kings with every trip to the penalty box.
“We’ve been fighting the puck quite a bit on the powerplay,” forward Max Gerlach said after the game. “Tonight, we did a really good job of making sure we made the right play, the smart play and it paid off with a couple of big goals.”
Before Tuesday’s game, Saskatoon was scoreless on 13 previous powerplay opportunities.
The Blades jumped out to an early lead thanks to powerplay goals by Michael Farren and Eric Florchuk before Dawson Davidson scored on a one-man effort in the opening minute of the second period.
The Oil Kings stormed back to tie the game over a five-minute and 23 second span in the second period.
Saskatoon would regain the lead when some careless punches after a delayed Oil Kings penalty left the Blades with a two minute five-on-three. Braylon Shmyr made no mistake putting home the team’s fourth powerplay goal of the evening.
Josh Paterson would add another goal before the end of the period to give the Blades a 5-3 lead.
Shmyr would score an insurance goal that would go on to become the game-winner after a later goal by Edmonton’s Colton Kehler.
Three Blades players littered the scoreboard. Davidson had a goal and three assists, Kirby Dach had three assists and Max Gerlach had a goal and two assists on the powerplay.
Brett Kemp and Tomas Soustal both had two points for the Oil Kings.
The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the Blades and pulls them to within two points of the Prince Albert Raiders for the WHL’s final wildcard playoff berth.
Heading into an important weekend at Sasktel Centre, Brockman knew Tuesday’s win was a big one, regardless of how ugly it was.
“A win’s a win. When you haven’t won for a while, every win matters and we definitely needed the two points for sure,” he said.
“We were pretty fragile after losing four in a row.”