Blades Freeze Out Ice

(Courtesy saskatoonblades.com)

In life as a hockey player, nothing is as sweet as your first win.

Except for the sugary tang of shaving cream, of course.

Spread generously on a disposable paper plate, that was Nik Amundrud’s reward after a spectacular, 31-save performance in a 5-2 win – his first in the Western Hockey League – over the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday night at SaskTel Centre.

His face caked in a hazy blue glow, Amundrud addressed the media after a curious crowd (scallywags masked as teammates) dished it out, bellowing in laughter.

It’s clear. After their fourth win in five games, the Blades have become one – a team as tight-knit as can be.

“It’s pretty cool seeing yourself up on the big screen making those big saves,” Amundrud said. “It’s really exciting. It took a while, but I’m happy to get [the win].”

“He was good,” Head Coach and General Manager Bob Woods added. “That’s what we’re looking for out of him. When he gets his opportunities, he’s got to make the most of it. Tonight, he made the saves that we needed at key times.”

Kootenay took a 1-0 lead at 1:18 as Zak Zborosky crashed the net, banging home the garbage after an unfortunate series of turnovers led to the ill-fated goalmouth scramble.

The Blades were quick to respond, however, netting the equalizer a half a minute later on Alex Forsberg’s first of the night – a similar play aided by a series of defensive zone miscues and a well-placed point shot by Amil Krupic, causing a stir in front of the Ice netminder.

The visitors regained the lead with 9:45 to play in the opening period. With Nelson Nogier stepping up to eliminate a nominal threat off the rush, the Ice took advantage. Luke Philp sifted a beautiful pass across the stick of Adam Henry, connecting with Jaedon Descheneau at the lip of the crease, leaving Amundrud with an impossible task.

“The first 10 minutes was our worst 10 minutes of the year,” Woods said. “They outworked us, plain and simple. We came in with a game plan, to give the Ice a reason to pack it in. … We had some good responses. With good teams, that’s what you do. You don’t sit and let things snowball – you get right back at it and change the momentum.

“We did that tonight.”

It was all Saskatoon from that point forward.

Scoring his first of the year and first as a Blade, Isaac Schacher brought the tilt back on level terms at 15:07. Lobbing a prayer at the awaiting cage, Schacher’s shot off the half wall escaped the gauntlet, trickling past Keelan Williams and tying the game at two.

The goal was Schacher’s first in 50 games.

With less than three-and-a-half minutes to play in the period, Forsberg – alone and uncontested in the house – tallied a beauty, quickly corralling a Cory Millette centering pass before picking his spot and roofing a missile up and over the goaltender.

Forsberg leads the Blades with six goals and 10 points in 11 games.

Shots on goal after one period of play were 14-13 in favour of the Ice. Amundrud was spectacular between the pipes, twice flashing the leather for a pair of glove goal-savers, resulting in a chorus of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the crowd of 3,498 at SaskTel Centre.

“If he doesn’t make those (saves), it’s a different hockey game. He made a couple big saves to wake us up,” Woods said.

The Blades extended the lead early in the second as Cameron Hebig got off the snide, registering his first of the year with a power-play goal at 2:34 of the middle frame. After losing the handle in tight, Hebig was the beneficiary of a little puck luck – the kind that had been oh-so absent throughout the first 10 games of the sophomore’s campaign. With barely enough forward momentum, the puck crawled through the wickets of Williams, setting the score at 4-2.

“I was trying to take it to my backhand, but it slipped off my toe and get through his five-hole. Lucky bounce!” Hebig laughed. “I wanted to get my feet going early – to go out there, have fun and not worry about it. It was a slow start, but we picked it up in the last half of the (first) period, and in the second and third, and took it to them.”

Coming into the night, the Blades’ power-play was operating at a 23.7-percent clip – one of the tops in the Western Hockey League, among the likes of Brandon, Vancouver and Kelowna.

Josh Uhrich added an insurance marker at 12:46 of the third, netting his first as a Blade with a wicked snipe, top shelf.

ICE CHIPS: Blades defenceman Ryan Coghlan left the game in the second period after a bout with River Beattie. The fight left Coghlan bloodied and in need of medical attention with an apparent injury to his left shoulder.  “He’ll be fine,” Woods said. “His shoulder popped out and we put it back in.” Coghlan is questionable for Friday’s game vs. Lethbridge.

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