The final seconds were not kind to the Saskatoon Blades on Friday night.
Twice, the visiting Calgary Hitmen eked out a goal during the final 25 seconds of a period on their way to a 4-3 overtime victory over the host Blades in Western Hockey League action at SaskTel Centre.
Mark Kastelic netted the game-winner for Calgary — during a 4-on-3 power play — at 1:18 of OT.
The winning goal came after Hitmen teammate Carson Focht scored with 24.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game into extra time.
The loss spoiled an otherwise solid debut by Blades newcomer Ryan Hughes, who had what looked to be the game-winner until Calgary’s last-minute heroics.
Hughes finished the night with a goal and assist to make an immediate impact for the Blades but left disappointed.
“It was tough,” said Hughes, who was acquired Thursday from the Portland Winterhawks prior to the WHL’s trade deadline.
“Obviously my first game, you want to walk away with the win. They (Hitmen) had a lot of momentum there at the end. It’s tough to shut that down, but one bad bounce and they force overtime and then a bad penalty, they score the power play goal in overtime — it sucks.”
Calgary out-shot Saskatoon 39-24 in the contest as the Hitmen improved their record this season to 21-16-3-1.
The Blades, who will play host to the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday night (7 p.m., SaskTel Centre), move to 26-12-6-0 on the season.
Hughes will play his former Winterhawk teammates and former Blade Josh Paterson will meet his former team just two days after Thursday’s trade.
“That should be interesting,” admitted Hughes. “But, like I said earlier, I’ve just got to throw my jersey on, whatever one it is, and play my game and play hard.”
Gary Haden opened the scoring Friday for the Blades with a back-door feed from Dawson Davidson at 4:56 of the first period.
The Hitmen answered back with 5:08 left in the frame as Kastelic wired a shot past Blades goalie Nolan Maier.
Saskatoon went on to take a 3-1 lead in the second period on goals by Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen and newcomer Ryan Hughes, less than three minutes apart, at 5:30 and 8:23 respectively.
However, Calgary cut the lead to just one goal when Egor Zamula scored with just 17.1 seconds remaining in the period to make it 3-2.
In the third period, the Hitmen scored in the final seconds once again as Focht re-directed a shot past Maier with only 24.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game into OT.
A pair of newcomers, Hughes and Cyle McNabb, both made their Blades debut Friday in the game against Calgary.
Hughes lined up on the left wing with Kirby Dach and Roykas-Marthinsen.
“I want to make a good first impression, so it (a two-point outing Friday) felt good — it’s just too bad we couldn’t get the win,” said Hughes.
McNabb played the right wing with Zach Huber at center and Kyle Crnkovic on the left side.
Chase Wouters once again centered Haden and Max Gerlach, while Tristen Robins played the middle with Riley McKay and Eric Florchuk on the wings.
“It’s been hectic, the last 24 hours, but I’m happy to be here and excited to start playing with the Blades and all the guys — they’re good days and they all seem nice,” said Hughes.
“They welcomed me with open arms, so I’m really excited.”
The Blades star Dach returned to the line-up after missing four games with a leg injury.
Dach was recently named to Team Orr for the upcoming 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 23 in Red Deer, Alberta.
The game is being held by the Canadian Hockey League in association with National Hockey League Central Scouting.
Dach is one of 40 players from across the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League selected by NHL clubs to compete in the 24th annual showcase of draft-eligible talent.
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