The Saskatoon Blades were on the other end of a thrilling comeback Wednesday night in Swift Current, watching a 4-1 lead evaporate before eventually falling to the Broncos in the 4th round of the shootout. An extra point helps the Blades as their record slips to 8-12-2-1 on the year in what was their first shootout of the season.
A hot start from the Blades had the Broncos on their heels as Caleb Fantillo opened the scoring just 24 seconds into the contest. Cam Hebig and Braylon Shmyr added the assists. 54 seconds later, Michael Farren made it 2-0 for the visiting Blades, stunning the crowd at the Innovation Credit Union I-Plex in Swift Current. This time Gage Ramsay and Randen Schmidt chipped in with the helpers.
The goals kept coming and next up was the Broncos’ turn. Conner Chaulk cut into the Blades’ lead with his 6th of the season giving Swift Current some life. Then at the 7:54 mark of the period Libor Hájek was assessed a slashing minor sending the league’s top power play to work. But Saskatoon put a damper on things as Cam Hebig stole the puck and raced down the ice to snipe his 19th of the season making it 3-1 for the Blades. The two goal cushion held up through the first period despite the Broncos having a slight edge in shots 13-12.
Minutes into the middle frame Randen Schmidt saw Alec Zawatsky streaking towards the far blue line and hit him with a sensational saucer pass. Zawatsky settled the puck and put a backhand shot off the far post and in for his 2nd career goal in the Western Hockey League to make it 4-1 for Saskatoon. That ended Joel Hofer’s night in goal for the Broncos as the rookie gave up four goals on 15 shots.
In the final minute of the second period Chase Wouters was called for tripping. The Blades penalty killers did their job of getting to the buzzer for the intermission but the Broncos still had 1:02 of power play time to start the third period and they made good use of it. Captain Glenn Gawdin cut the lead in half just 25 seconds into the period and he wasn’t done there. Gawdin made it a one goal game midway through the period which also tilted the ice and momentum in favour of the Broncos.
After a timeout to go over the plan and with Logan Flodell on the bench, Swift Current scored to tie the game 4-4 with the extra attacker on the ice. D-man Artyom Minulin parked his big frame right in front of Nolan Maier and shovelled in the tying goal with 2:09 still left to play. But that didn’t matter as the game stayed deadlocked through 60 minutes and the extra five.
Facing a familiar face in the other goal, the Blades went to their first shootout of the season. Cam Hebig went first and didn’t have any luck and neither did Glenn Gawdin or Tyler Steenbergen for the Broncos.
Kirby Dach was the second to shoot for Saskatoon and he showed off some slick moves to score the first goal of the shootout. Aleksi Heponiemi kept the Broncos alive in the 3rd round before Logan Barlage put the nail in the coffin and won the game for Swift Current. Michael Farren and Braylon Shmyr were the other shooters for Saskatoon who were unable to beat Flodell.
Nolan Maier had another impressive performance stopping 33/37 shots faced and going 2/4 in the shootout, but is still in search of his first career WHL victory.
Randen Schmidt– coming off a 2 point night on Tuesday– tallied another 2 assists in the loss. Cam Hebig was the only other Blade with a multi-point game; scoring his 19th of the season and adding an apple to increase his season point total to 32 in 21 games. Braylon Shmyr’s assist extended his point streak to 5 games which includes a goal and six assists.
Next on the docket for the Blades is yet another East Division rival as the Brandon Wheat Kings come to Saskatoon on Friday night. Game time is 7:00pm at SaskTel Centre. It’s the final home game for over two weeks for the Blades as they’ll take a break from Eastern Conference competition to embark on their biennial U.S. Division road trip.