Blades 2 Rebels 1 (OT)
On a night when both clubs struggled to cash in on their scoring chances, the Saskatoon Blades made their last shot count.
The Blades got a goal from Jesse Shynkaruk — his second of the game — with 16.5 seconds remaining in overtime and defeated the Red Deer Rebels 2-1 Tuesday before 4,029 fans at the Enmax Centrium.
It was the Rebels eighth WHL overtime loss of the season, their sixth in succession in extra time and their second in a row at home after falling 2-1 to the visiting Swift Current Broncos Saturday.
“We played hard out there tonight, the goaltenders played well. We had lots of opportunities we could have scored on,” said veteran forward Evan Polei, who notched the Rebels’ lone goal.
“Again, overtime got us, it seems to be the trend the last two games. Maybe it’s a part of our game we need to work on a little more. Maybe practise more three-on-three and get our heads wrapped around it a bit better.”
Shynkaruk opened the scoring just 1:12 into the contest with Polei serving a charging penalty assessed at the 15-second mark. Rebels netminder Riley Lamb was down and out after making two terrific stops and Shynkaruk scored with a slapshot from the left circle.
The Blades held a 12-11 edge in shots in the opening period and created a few more scoring chances than their hosts, but the Rebels picked it up in the middle frame and the clubs were pretty much even up from there in terms of opportunities.
“We didn’t have our feet moving early,” said Polei. “In the second we got our feet moving, got pucks behind them, started hitting them more and got opportunities and capitalized on one.”
Polei was referring to his team-leading 29th of the year, which he tallied on a rebound of a point shot by Jared Freadrich.
Lamb made impressive saves on Michael Farren in the first period and Kirby Dach in overtime. Blades goaltender Logan Flodell, meanwhile, denied Polei in the opening stanza, stopped Austin Glover on a third-period break and stood his ground on a great chance by Michael Spacek in the extra period.
Both netminders made 35 saves.
“It was a tight-checking game, one of those nights when both teams had chances and both goalies played well,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“In the third period, in the last 10 minutes, there wasn’t a lot of offence created by either team. And in overtime it’s three-on-three and who knows what’s going to happen then.
“We had our chances too, we just got outside the dots in our zone and allowed a guy to get into the slot on us and get a shot.”
That guy was Shynkaruk, who wheeled into the high slot and unleashed a wrist shot that deflected off a Red Deer stick and past Lamb.
Lamb turned in his third strong performance in succession but Sutter stopped short of naming him as the starter in Friday’s contest against the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook. The teams meet again 24 hours later at the Centrium.
“You can’t just think about the next game. We have two big games coming up and a lot of hockey,” said the Rebels boss, whose club has five regular-season games remaining.
“Petey (Lasse Petersen) has to play in some of them and so does Lamber. Whoever starts the game Friday, the other guy will start Saturday. We have to use both our goalies this weekend.”
Notable: With the victory, the Blades moved one point past the idle Calgary Hitmen in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings. The two teams meet Wednesday in Calgary . . . Saskatoon is also just three points back of the Rebels, while Red Deer is four up on Calgary for third place in the Central Division . . . Sutter didn’t sound optimistic regarding an update on captain Adam Musil, who suffered an off-ice lower-body injury Sunday. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “I would expect him to be out for the season.”