Win streak ends, look­ing to re­gain edge

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - DARREN ZARY

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.”

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