The eight-team field in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference is set for the 2020 WHL Playoffs.
Securing the eighth spot, with the final ordering still to be determined, were the Saskatoon Blades as they defeated the Regina Pats by a 2-1 score in overtime at SaskTel Centre Friday night. The Central and East Divisions will now each be represented by four teams when the chase for the Ed Chynoweth Cup begins later this month.
With their win Friday, the Blades improved to 32-24-2-3 this season, giving them 69 points in the standings. The Red Deer Rebels, the only team that could have caught the Blades, can only achieve 67 points by the end of the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season.
After advancing to the second round of last year’s playoffs, the Blades are back once again to prove they’re the best in the East Division, getting help from key performances along the way this season.
Following a promising rookie season in 2018-19, forward Tristen Robins is leading the Blades in scoring with 68 points (31G-37A) through 60 games, also garnering attention for the 2020 NHL Draft. Having just recently turned 18, Kyle Crnkovic has stepped into a bigger offensive role as well, posting 59 points (18G-41A) in 60 games.
Captain Chase Wouters has also provided a steady offensive presence up front, recording 44 points (25G-19A) in 61 games.
Acquired before the start of the season from the Victoria Royals, Scott Walford has been one of the better overage defencemen in the league this season, contributing 51 points (11G-41A) in 59 games. Nolan Kneen has also been another key overage part of the team’s blue line, posting 37 points (11G-26A) in 59 games.
After gaining valuable experience as a rookie last season, Aidan De La Gorgendiere has put forth a career-best season with the 18-year-old defenceman recording 26 points (4G-22A) in 61 games this season.
Between the pipes, the team have utilized the strengths of Nolan Maier and Koen MacInnes during different parts of the season. Maier continues to make the bulk of the appearances in net, appearing in 43 games and posting a 20-19-1-3 record, 3.09 goals-against average, 0.899 save percentage, and one shutout.
In addition to earning some attention for the 2020 NHL Draft, MacInnes has compiled a 12-5-1-0 record in 23 games while maintaining a 2.94 GAA, 0.900 SV%, and two shutouts.
While their spot in the playoffs is secure, what isn’t known yet is their opponent. With seven games left in their regular season schedule, it is still mathematically possible for the Blades to ascend to the top of the East Division.
The Blades are the 14th team in the WHL to qualify for the 2020 WHL Playoffs. Two spots are still open in the WHL’s Western Conference.
Completing a home-and-home against the Pats, the Blades will be in action next on Saturday, March 7 (7 p.m. CT) at the Brandt Centre in the provincial capital.