If the Saskatoon Blades were searching for some separation in the Western Hockey League’s East Division standings, they didn’t find it Friday night.
The Blades dropped a 3-2 decision to the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors, who erased a 2-0 deficit on their way to the Western Hockey League victory at SaskTel Centre.
“Like I’ve said all year, you can win and lose a lot of hockey games on your special teams,” said Blades head coach Mitch Live. “We went 0-for-5 on the power play and they went 2-for-3 on theirs. End of the ball game.”
With the win, Moose Jaw moved into a tie with Saskatoon in the WHL’s East Division standings, each with 37 points.
The Warriors, who improved to 16-6-4-1, still have three games in hand on the Blades, who fall to 17-10-3-0.
The same two teams meet again Saturday in Moose Jaw.
Next up for the Blades at home are the Prince Albert Raiders, currently the No. 1 major junior team in North America. They’ll meet each other Sunday at 4 p.m. at SaskTel Centre.
Eric Florchuk and Josh Paterson scored to give the Blades an early 2-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes, but the Warriors battled back on goals by Luke Ormsby and Tristin Langan, on the power play, to knot things up after two periods of play.
The Blades had a two-man advantage with 1:40 remaining in the second period but could not convert.
Brayden Tracey put Moose Jaw up 3-2 with a power play goal at 9:37 of the third period.
The Blades had some quality scoring chances in the final minutes, the best ones by a pinching defenceman Nolan Kneen and forward Gary Haden.
The Warriors were 2-for-3 with the man-advantage. The Blades, who out-shot the visitors 35-25, were 0-for-5.
“You know what, I didn’t mind our game, to be honest,” said Love. “You’re up 2-0 on home ice the first 10 minutes is pretty good.
“We’ve spent countless hours on (power play) personnel and schemes. Our penalty kill has been third-best in the Western Hockey League this year, so it’s done its job. Our power play, we know it’s a concern to us and we need to get better at it. But sometimes when you shed too much light on the power play, it also make it uneasy on young men who start squeezing their sticks. That’s a little bit of what’s going on right now.
“We outshot a team 35-25 on home ice and 14-5 in the third period. (Brodan) Salmond played well. He did his job. They came in and found a way to get a road win and we have to try and do the same thing in their building tomorrow.”
Announced paid attendance Friday was 3,236.
HOME, AT LAST
The Blades had played 18 of 29 games this season on the road, and just six games against East Division opponents, prior to Friday’s contest against the Warriors.
It’s the start of an important stretch for Saskatoon, which plays 11 of its next 12 games within the East Division and seven of 12 on home ice.
The Blades have a rematch Satuday against the Warriors in Moose Jaw, then next up at home they take on the Prince Albert Raiders Sunday at 4 p.m. at SaskTel Centre.
The Blades entered Friday’s contest with a 3-3-0 record against East Division teams and a 6-4-1 record at home.
The Blades are without forward Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen, who is away representing Norway at the 2019 world junior Div. I tournament in Germany. Roykas-Marthinsen had been red-hot with the Blades with seven points in his last eight games.
Moose Jaw captain Josh Brook is among 12 defencemen invited to the upcoming Team Canada selection camp.
Team Canada has a three-game exhibition series scheduled for next week in Victoria, B.C., against the U Sport All-Stars, whose roster includes Jesse Forsberg, Carson Stadnyk, Kohl Bauml and Wyatt Johnson from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Nolan Maier was presented with the Blades’ player of the month for November prior to Friday’s game.
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