Friday, 17 March 2017

A star-crossed home farewell for Blades

Saskatoon pulls out 5-3 win, eliminated from WHL playoff race

Jesse Shynkaruk (#14) salutes the SaskTel Centre crowd.
    After his Saskatoon Blades won their home finale, Jesse Shynkaruk had trouble holding back the tears.
    Before Friday night’s game started at the SaskTel Centre against the visiting Prince Albert Raiders, the Blades were still alive in the WHL playoff race, but they didn’t have control of their own destiny.     The overage centre popped in his team’s first goal off a speedy rush in the first period to force a 1-1 tie with the Raiders.
    The Blades shot out from that point going ahead 4-1 in the second period and ultimately held on for a 5-3 victory.
    To stay alive, the Blades needed the Calgary Hitmen to fall in Cranbrook, B.C., on Friday night to the host Kootenay Ice, who sat last in the entire WHL. While the Blades were pulling out a victory before 10,030 spectators on home ice, the Hitmen were dumping the Ice 6-1.
    With the win over the Ice (14-45-10-2), the Hitmen improved to 29-32-8-2 to lock up eight place overall in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and clinch the conference’s final wildcard post-season berth.
    The Blades improved to 28-34-7-2 with their victory, but the reality hit post-game that they would play only one more contest in the 2016-17 campaign. The Blades and Raiders, who fell to 20-44-5-2, will both close their regular seasons in another head-to-head encounter on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
Braylon Shmyr brings the puck up ice for the Blades.
    During a post-game media scrum, Shynkaruk stopped once while answering questions, composed himself, apologized and continued to answer queries. Having been released by the Moose Jaw Warriors at the conclusion of last season, Shynkaruk was without a WHL home until his hometown Blades listed him.
    With the Blades, he had by far his best WHL season netting career highs in goals (31) and assists (25) in 57 regular season appearances at the conclusion of Friday’s action.
    “I am going to have to say goodbye to all those guys in a couple of days, and it is going to be really tough,” said Shynkaruk. “(I made) a bunch of friendships that will last forever, and I think that is the part I will miss the most.
    “To be honest, I don’t think anyone gave us much of a chance at the start of the year. With all the adversity we faced with injuries, I think this team over performed amazingly. I am really proud of every single guy in that room.”
    The Blades will miss the post-season for the fourth consecutive year having last made the playoffs in 2013, when they hosted the Memorial Cup. Unlike the previous three campaigns, the Blades were still alive in the race to make the playoffs going into their second last regular season game. During the three previous non-playoff years, the Blades were accustomed to playing out the string at this stage of things.
Michael Farren, left, celebrates his goal with Chase Wouters.
    With Saskatoon up 4-1 heading into the second intermission, Blades head coach Dean Brockman said his side kind of knew that the Hitmen were up big on the Ice in Cranbrook, B.C., even if they didn’t know what the exact score was. The bench boss was still pleased his squad came out with the win in front of their biggest home crowd of the season.
    “Obviously with all these people in the building, you want to put on a show,” said Brockman. “Certainly, our guys they knew what the stake of the game was.
    “We wanted to win it. Certainly, we kind of knew what our destiny was going to be. I give our guys a lot of credit for staying in it as long as they did.”
    Overage winger Cavin Leth gave the Raiders an early 1-0 lead before Shynkaruk netted the equalizer for the host side. In the second period, the Blades exploded out for three straight goals to go ahead 4-1 with singles coming from Braylon Shmyr, Michael Farren and Gage Ramsay.
Blades goalie Logan Flodell deals with traffic from the Raiders.
    The Raiders put a scare into the hosts, when forwards Parker Kelly and Spencer Moe netted singles to cut the Blades lead to 4-3 with 11:21 to play in the frame.
    Josh Paterson sealed victory for the Blades scoring into an empty net with one second to play.
    Logan Flodell turned away 36 shots to pick up his 22nd win of the season in goal for the Blades. Nicholas Sanders started in goal for the Raiders and turned away 11-of-14 shots before being pulled at the 6:21 mark of the second period. Ian Scott stopped 10-of-11 shots finishing the contest in relief and officially taking the loss in goal for Prince Albert.
    Following the game, Shynkaruk went back out on to the ice with overage Blades teammates Bryton Sayers and Markson Bechtold for one final bow.
Jesse Shynkaruk brings the puck up ice for the Blades.
    “We went out there together,” said Shynkaruk. “I saw my family up there and knew that I am not going to be back.
    “A little bit of emotions came. It is tough holding them back.”
    He added he would try to put on one last big effort in his final WHL game on Saturday.
    “Usually the emotions aren’t pouring out of you on game 71,” said Shynkaruk. “(I am going to) go out there and work hard for every single guy in that room for our last game, and hopefully make it a good one.”

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