Win streak ends, looking to regain edge
A five-game winning streak now just a recent memory, the Saskatoon Blades are looking to get back on track — and very quickly — after dropping a pair of games on the weekend.
And it doesn’t get any easier. The Blades take on Canada’s topranked Regina Pats in a Monday Western Hockey League matchup at 11:30 a.m. at SaskTel Centre.
Regina is 33-6-6-1 and a Memorial Cup contender.
Saskatoon, still rebuilding, is 20-24-5-1 and just one point up on the Calgary Hitmen for the WHL’s Eastern Conference’s final wildcard berth. On paper, it looks like a major mismatch.
“They’ve got the best team in the league and best record — I would say they definitely have the edge,” admits Blades head coach Dean Brockman. “We’ll try and loosen up — I think we got a little tight over the last couple of days. They’ve got a very good team. We’re going to have to be ready. We’re going to have to be focused and do what we can do.”
The Blades did manage to beat the Pats 2-1, in overtime, back on Dec. 10 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Jesse Shynkaruk netted the game-winner and Gage Ramsay had the other goal for Saskatoon. The game’s No. 1 star was Blades goalie Logan Flodell, who stopped 39 of 40 shots for the win.
“They’re definitely a good skilled team and they work hard so we definitely need the work ethic that we had the previous few games,” says Flodell, who gave his team a chance to win Saturday with 27 saves but the Blades fell short in a 3-1 loss to the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes before 4,124 fans at SaskTel Centre.
“(Saturday) wasn’t our best so we’ve got to change that for sure.”
Knowing that they’ve beaten the Pats once gives the Blades a bit of confidence.
“We’ve played a couple of good games against them,” says Flodell. “Going into a team like that, you’ve got to bring the work ethic that we need. Whenever we play good teams like that, there’s a little more motivation to beat them and prove yourself. I think we’ve done that the last couple of times against them.”
Saturday’s game against Lethbridge was entertaining with quality scoring chances at both ends but the Blades couldn’t capitalize, their power play floundered and a costly turnover led to a short-handed goal that really did them in.
“That was just one of many things,” Brockman would say with a shrug. “For whatever reason, we didn’t have it again. We just had too many passengers and not enough guys who were willing to work hard. You’re going to have games like that in the season and this just turned out to be one of them.
“We missed some chances in the second period. If we had capitalized on, it might have changed the complexion of the game.”
Jake Kustra scored the lone goal for the Blades, his first of the season.
“It was nice to get the first goal out of the way, but, on the other hand, we need to play a full 60 minutes here and we can’t come out with that effort every night and expect to win,” says Kustra. “We need to figure it out here and forget about the last game and move on, take Regina next game and hopefully put a win together with that.”
Saskatoon was 0-for-7 on the power play against Lethbridge, which didn’t help. “If you can’t score on the power play,” Brockman says, “you’re probably not going to win the game, bottom line.”