Wild card positioning magnified as Blades host Pats in WHL on Access action
Regina Pats (29-23-5-0) at Saskatoon Blades (27-26-2-1)
Sunday, February 11 – SaskTel Centre 4;05 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
As the last full month of the 2017-18 Western Hockey League regular season rumbles along, there’s no time like the present to gain points in every portion of your schedule. Teams play up to their competition in the desperate drive to make that last post-season push.
That’s a reality you don’t have to explain twice to the Regina Pats or Saskatoon Blades as they meet for the second last time in their season series in the spotlight of WHL on Access action.
Six points separate the two wild card holders in the Eastern Conference, while the Pats sit two points behind of the Brandon Wheat Kings for third place in the East Division. At the other end, the Blades sit a razor-thin two points away from the Raiders who sit just on the outside of the playoff picture.
A division that was spread out during the first half of the season, has quickly become cramped at right time for fans and the worst time for the teams involved. One will inevitably be left on the outside looking in once the regular season concludes in March and the teams that do earn entry to the playoffs may already be battered from fighting a playoff-esque battle down the stretch.
A piece of excitement to watch in the final few weeks is five matchups, including today’s, between the Pats, Blades, and Raiders, meaning a team’s playoff hopes can rise or sink dramatically in those games.
The fun part about these games is that the season series can only offer so much insight. The Pats won the first meeting of the season, a 7-3 rout on Oct. 7, went onto lose the next four games, and recently came back with another 7-3 performance.
Sunday’s special teams battle could also work towards the advantage of the Blades. In two games at the SaskTel Centre, the Blades have converted on 2-of-5 power play opportunities while the Pats are just 1-for-10. Change the location to the Brandt Centre and things heavily favour the Pats, who are 8-for-23 on the power play at home while the Blades were just 4-for-22 in those same four games.
Just four games into February, Pats captain Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks) has already tallied 11 points (3G-8A) and will continue to be his ever-offensively-dangerous self on the ice. Cameron Hebig (Edmonton Oilers) has continued to produce better than a point-per-game pace since his trade from the Blades. In 13 games, he has 16 points (8G-8A).
For the Blades, it’s a continuing trend to score by committee. In four February games, Logan Christensen has five points (2G-3A), while Bradly Goethals (4G), Max Gerlach (2G-2A), Dawson Davidson (1G-3A), and Braylon Shmyr (1G-3A) all have four.
How will it all play out? You’ll have to tune in to WHL on Access action live from Saskatoon Sunday afternoon to catch all the action!
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) February 11, 2018
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Cameron Hebig (38-36-74); C Sam Steel (21-40-61); C Matt Bradley (32-28-60)
Leading goaltender: Ryan Kubic (30GP, 13-15-2-0, 3.68 GAA, .888 SV%)
Power play: 10th – 22.4%
Penalty kill: 19th – 74.8%
Injuries/unavailable: C Scott Mahovlich (lower body, day-to-day)
GAME DAY PREVIEW: Rivalry weekend continues as Blades square off with Pats today
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) February 11, 2018
Head coach: Dean Brockman
Leading scorers: LW Braylon Shmyr (27-44-71); RW Max Gerlach (26-24-50); C Josh Paterson (26-17-43)
Leading goaltender: Nolan Maier (30GP, 18-10-0-1, 3.23 GAA, .902 SV%)
Power play: 15th – 19.8%
Penalty kill: 16th – 77.0%
Injuries/Unavailable: RW Caleb Fantillo (upper body, TBD)
Oct. 7 – Saskatoon 3 Regina 7
Oct. 11 – Saskatoon 6 Regina 4
Dec. 15 – Saskatoon 4 Regina 3 – OT
Dec. 17 – Regina 2 Saskatoon 3
Jan. 20 – Regina 3 Saskatoon 4 – OT
Jan. 24 – Saskatoon 3 Regina 7
Feb. 11 – Regina at Saskatoon*
Feb. 23 – Regina at Saskatoon
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast