It was a hard fought battle on Saturday night as the Blades dropped a 3-2 decision to the Kamloops Blazers. The game marked the middle match of three games in three nights for Saskatoon, as goalie Taran Kozun was named first star in net for the Blazers.
The Blades got off to a good start in the game with Nick Zajac providing some energy early. The veteran Blades forward returned to the lineup tonight for the first time since the Blades first game of the US Division road trip and did his best to throw his weight around on the first shift. Saskatoon kept the momentum up just over 5 minutes into the game when Nathan Burns sent a great feed to Nikita Scherbak, but his move to the forehand was stymied by Blazers goalie Taran Kozun. Troy Trombley was equal to the task in the Blades goal early, answering back with saves of his own including a pair off Cole Ully. Then, Saskatoon got on the board. The goal came on the PP when Nathan Burns took a feed from Valcourt, finishing off a nice passing play along with Scherbak as Burns fired and scored from the circle for his 15th of the season at 9:36. But the Blazers had an answer only 38 seconds later when Cole Ully found a rebound in the high slot, spun and beat Trombley to make it 1-1 on his 13th of the year. The Blazers then took the lead only a minute later when Carson Bolduc took a puck in the slot and fired it past Trombley to make it 2-1. Then with 9:23 remaining in the frame things boiled over physically when a hit on Scherbak led to Valcourt dropping the mitts with Sam Grist. Grist caught Valcourt with a good punch and the big Blades forward left the game. Some good chances late in the frame, including a hard drive to the net by Burns, wouldn’t go as Saskatoon trailed 2-1 through 20 minutes. Shots in the period were 18-17 in favour of the home side.
After a period of puck possession in the first for Saskatoon, it was the Blazers who held much of the control in the start of the second period. That early pressure led to a man-advantage, with Cole Ully coming close on the PP with his shot going through Trombley but just trickling wide. Saskatoon then had their own chance on the man advantage and with 14:25 to go in the period almost tied the game. The chance came off a goalmouth scramble as Burns looked to have a partially wide open net, but slammed the puck off the iron and out behind Kozun to keep the game sitting at 2-1 for Kamloops. The Blades then created another chance minutes later with Burns once again being denied from in close with Kozun made the pad stop on the Blades veteran and holding on to the rebound despite a mass of bodies on top of his blue ice. Kozun continued to be a story late in the frame as he made fantastic glove stops on Nick Zajac and Austin Adamson to close out the frame. Shots were 31-31 through 40 minutes, with neither team finding the net in the period.
The third period got off on the right foot for Saskatoon as Chase Clayton drew a powerplay only 7 seconds in after taking a crosscheck to the face from Ryan Rehill. The Blades made the most of their opportunity as Nolan Reid netted his first career WHL goal at 1:17 off a point shot that beat Kozun. For Reid, it gave him a goal and an assist in his quick two-game callup with Saskatoon. But, more importantly the goal tied up the game for the Blades, with Graeme Craig and Nikita Scherbak assisting. But, the tie game didn’t last too long. With 11:41 to play the Blazers got a break to take the lead when a Carson Bolduc centering feed hit Craig’s skate and beat Trombley to make it a 3-2 game. Saskatoon had a chance on a PP near the midpoint of the frame after falling down 3-2 and came close on several chances, but Kozun was key in goal for Kamloops. The Blades continued to push against the Blazers, pulling the goalie but failing the capitalize. The biggest chance to tie the game came when Nikita Scherbak was left alone beside the net in the final minute, but Kozun slid to get a pad on the attempt, sealing the 3-2 win for Kamloops.
Kozun took home the first star honours, with Nolan Reid taking home second star honours after scoring his first career WHL goal in the game. Shots finished up at 41-41 for Kamloops, with the Blades going 2 for 5 on the PP and 3 for 3 on the PK.
The Saskatoon Blades don’t get to rest up now as they head to Edmonton for a meeting with the Oil Kings on Sunday night. Following that game, the Blades have one more game before the WHL takes it’s holiday break. The Blades play host to the Kelowna Rockets on Tuesday, December 17th. The Blades have a special ticket offer that night as kid’s get into the game for only $5!
You can go ahead and get tickets for that game here.