Blades & Pats hope for holiday tidings in WHL on Access action

Keith Hershmiller


Regina Pats (16-16-3-0)
at Saskatoon Blades (14-17-2-1)

Sunday, December 17
SaskTel Centre – 4:05 p.m. ST

Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70HD, WHL Live

You might think it early to be calling a contest one of the four-point variety, but Sunday’s meeting between the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades certainly amounts to just that as the two East Division rivals reconvene for their second meeting in three days on Access7.

With the holiday break right around the corner, both teams find themselves embroiled in a heated wild card race in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, with the Pats sitting in the first wild card seed, only two points ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders and four points ahead of the Saskatoon Blades. That should tell you all you need to know as to just how important this midseason matchup is for both squads.

Friday night, three points were doled out between the two clubs as the Blades came away with a narrow 4-3 decision in overtime at Regina’s Brandt Centre.

Saskatoon captain Evan Fiala fueled his squad on Friday, notching a pair of goals from the blue line, including the overtime winner. Between the pipes, it was rookie phenom Nolan Maier making 30 saves to earn the victory.

It’s been a busy weekend for both the Blades and Pats heading into the holiday break.

Following Friday’s meeting on Access7 in Regina, the Blades returned home where they hosted the Kelowna Rockets at Sasktel Centre. Two more points evaded the Blades as Kelowna Rockets rookie goaltender James Porter walked into the Bridge City and posted a 40-save shutout, earning his first career WHL goose egg while handing the Blades a 5-0 defeat.

Back in Regina, the Pats faced the embattled Lethbridge Hurricanes – fresh off a 3-0 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings. Home ice was of no help to the Pats on Saturday as the Hurricanes skated to a 6-2 triumph, bringing Regina back to .500.

If Regina hopes to stay above .500, they will have to do it without the services of two of their stars. Captain Sam Steel was officially named to Canada’s roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Saturday afternoon, so his leadership and offensive prowess (14G-21A) will be unavailable to head coach John Paddock. In addition to Steel’s absence, the Pats will forge ahead without defenceman Josh Mahura, at least for the time being. The Anaheim Ducks prospect rejoined Canada for World Junior Championship pre-tournament play on Sunday after initialing being released.

With Steel and Mahura in Ontario with Hockey Canada, veterans Matt Bradley (21G-18A) and Dawson Davidson (6G-16A) will be required to step up.

On the Saskatoon bench, rookie Kirby Dach has been hot of late with six points (1G-5A) in his previous three outings, including a pair of helpers in Friday’s tilt at Regina. Though he was held off the scoresheet in the shutout loss to the Rockets, the product of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., remains vital to the Blades’ playoff hopes.

The play of veteran scorer Cameron Hebig cannot be understated. His 26 goals rank him among all WHL goal-scoring leaders and his 48 points are nothing to turn one’s nose up at.

Catch one final day of WHL action on Access7 before the Christmas break as the Blades host the Pats on Sunday, December 17 (4:05 p.m. ST).

Regina Pats

Record: 16-16-3-0
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Matt Bradley (21-18-39); C Sam Steel (14-21-35); RW Emil Oksanen (12-19-31)
Leading goaltender: Tyler Brown (26GP, 10-12-3-0, 3.46 GAA, .884 SV%)
Power play: Eighth – 23.3%
Penalty kill: 21st – 70.1%
Injuries/unavailable: D Josh Mahura (Hockey Canada), C Sam Steel (Hockey Canada)

Saskatoon Blades

Record: 14-17-2-1
Head coach: Dean Brockman
Leading scorers: C Cameron Hebig (26-22-48); LW Braylon Shmyr (14-24-38); D Libor Hajek (8-16-24)
Leading goaltender: Ryan Kubic (19GP, 8-10-1-0, 3.96 GAA, .872 SV%)
Power play: 18th – 18.5%
Penalty kill: 20th – 72.7%
Injuries/Unavailable: LW Gage Ramsay (lower body, day to day); RW Caleb Fantillo (lower body, 5-7 weeks)

Season Series
Oct. 7 – Saskatoon 3 Regina 7
Oct. 11 – Saskatoon 6 Regina 4
Dec. 15 – Saskatoon 4 Regina 3 – OT
Dec. 17 – Regina at Saskatoon*
Jan. 20 – Regina at Saskatoon
Jan. 24 – Saskatoon at Regina*
Feb. 11 – Regina at Saskatoon*
Feb. 23 – Regina at Saskatoon

* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast

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