A stout performance from both the penalty kill, and goaltender Nolan Maier acted as the catalyst for the Saskatoon Blades in its 4-2 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers Tuesday at Sasktel Centre.
With Saskatoon clinging to a 3-1 lead with just over two minutes remaining the third period, a slashing penalty combined with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from head coach Mitch Love put the Blades down 5-on-3 with the WHL’s top power play set to go to work.
As Medicine Hat pulled its goaltender and stretched it’s man-advantage to three, Blades players dove in front of every moving puck to keep the lead in tact and preserve the win.
“Our penalty kill, and our goaltender, did a great job on the nine penalty kills”, said Love after the victory.
Medicine Hat came into the game with a power play operating at a lucrative 36.8 per cent on the road, but could only convert one of its nine opportunities Tuesday.
Saskatoon’s bench boss was quick to point out what he felt of the high number of calls.
“We stress a lot of discipline and I’m the first one to talk about discipline in our dressing room and I end up taking a minor penalty tonight. I just didn’t think some of the calls were warranted, to be honest with you,” he said.
“We’re a pretty disciplined hockey team, we are actually second in the league in minor penalties, and I just thought things were fudged a bit at times.”
To start the game, it looked like the Tigers were going to be able to keep their vicious power play rolling, as forward Ryan Chyzowski opened the scoring midway through the opening period on Medicine Hat’s first power play of the game.
But after giving up the opening goal, Saskatoon’s penalty kill and netminder tightened up, neutralizing the Medicine Hat power play for the rest of the game.
Blades rookie Kyle Crnkovic, who returned to the team after a successful time playing for Team Canada Black at the World Under -17 Challenge in New Brunsiwck, was able to net his first WHL goal.
The 16-year-old forward described what it was like to accomplish the milestone after the game.
“I was very excited,” Crnkovic said. “There was a good turnover that was caused by (my teammates) and I was able to get it and put it home.”
Max Gerlach, Chase Wouters, and Kirby Dach were the other Blades who potted goals in the win. Goalie Nolan Maier stopped 37 shots and was named the game’s first star.
Medicine Hat now stands with a record of 9-9-1-2 after the loss.
Things don’t get any easier for the Tigers, as they will continue their four game road trip with a visit to Prince Albert to face the league best Raiders on Wednesday.
Saskatoon has now won three in a row, and improved their record to 13-7-2-0 on the season. The team will play the second game of its three-game home stand when the Tri-City Americans pay a visit on Saturday.
-With files from Donovan Remenda