The Saskatoon Blades’ playoff hopes took a major hit on Friday, losing to the Calgary Hitmen 5-4 at SaskTel Centre.
Saskatoon was doing some hoping, praying and waiting as they trailed the Prince Albert Raiders by four points entering the night.
With Prince Albert taking on league-leading Moose Jaw, the Blades looked to capitalize on the matchup. Instead, the Blades now hope for a miracle after a 6-4 win by the Raiders.
Those two results all but dash the Blades hopes at a postseason.
Up 3-1 early in the game, the Blades were positioned to stretch its lead further on a powerplay, but Calgary had other plans, scoring two shorthanded goals prying away energy from the Blades bench.
“It’s definitely the turning point in the game,” Blades head coach Dean Brockman said following the game. “You can’t give up two shorthanded goals and expect to win the game.”
The two markers mean the Blades have allowed 14 shorthanded goals against, good enough for second worst in the WHL.
Alternatively, the Blades had a tough time stringing passes together, skating with possession and forcing Hitmen players into making tough decisions with the puck.
The teams entered the second intermission tied at three after six goals in the first period, two by Hitmen forward Tristen Nielsen.
Saskatoon forward Josh Paterson scored his 30th goal in his 200th WHL game, an accomplishment lost in a disappointing loss.
“It was a good milestone night for me, but at the end of the day, we came here for to points and we didn’t get those, so its got a bitter tone to it,” he said.
Blades’ Braylon Shmyr put the Blades up 4-3 less than a minute into the third to give the Blades some hope in the waning minutes of the game.
That hope was crushed once again as Carson Focht scored all alone on in front of goaltender Nolan Maier to even the game up with 11:25 remaining.
Saskatoon had the best chances to take the lead, but couldn’t solve Hitmen netminder Nick Schneider and had to take its chances in overtime.
After a cautious opening minute of overtime, Saskatoon players were caught deciding to get off the ice or not, leaving Nielsen all alone on a breakaway for his hattrick goal and fourth point of the night 1:58 into the extra period.
The 3,579-person crowd fell silent, knowing the Blades need help to qualify for the playoffs.
With his team now five points out of a playoff spot with only five games to go, Brockman understands that winning might not be enough.
“Certainly we have to play with desperation,” he said. “I think that’s the way we have to approach every shift and every period.”
“Hopefully we get a break from somebody beating P.A down the road.”
Hoping for a P.A loss is harder than it seems these days. The Raiders have rattled off eight wins in a row, while the Blades have lost five of their last six games.