Blades tame T'birds
Saskatoon goalie Holtby stands tall in net stopping 35 shots, including penalty shot in OT
Cory Wolfe, The StarPhoenix
Published: Thursday, November 13, 2008
BLADES 2, T'BIRDS 1 (SO)
Saskatoon Blades goaltender Braden Holtby hasn't scored a meaningful goal in years, but he looked like a sniper with his celebration move Wednesday night.
The 19-year-old veteran went down to one knee and pumped his blocker after securing a 2-1 shootout victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds at Credit Union Centre.
Jeremy Boyer of the Thunderbirds breaks for the net Wednesday past Jyri Niemi of the Blades
Greg Pender, The StarPhoenix
"That (move) is just from hanging around (Alexander) Ovechkin for a week or two," joked Holtby, who attended the Washington Capitals' training camp earlier this year.
Holtby had reason to be pumped. He stoned Thunderbirds forward Lindsay Nielsen on a penalty shot with 1:05 left in overtime. Then Holtby stopped three of six Seattle attempts in the shootout.
"It was kind of weird because I've never had a penalty shot in overtime before," said Holtby, who foiled Nielsen's attempt to deke. "It was a bit of added pressure, but luckily I had that one because there was a couple of times in the shootout when I didn't make the save with the game on the line.
"Fortunately, the boys pulled through."
Adam Chorneyko scored the shootout winner by deking to his backhand and beating Calvin Pickard to the glove side. Prior to Wednesday, Chorneyko was the only Blade to participate in a shootout this season, having taking a turn while he was with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
"You can't get too high and you can't get too low out there," said Chorneyko. "After Holtby made that penalty-shot save, it sparked our team."
With the win, the Blades (15-6-1-0) leapfrogged the Regina Pats (13-7-1-3) for top spot in the East Division. Seattle slipped to 7-11-1-2.
Despite the low final score, the action was fast and frantic at various times. The game featured multiple defensive breakdowns, stretch passes and odd-man rushes (in one case, a 4-on-1 for the Blades).
Both goaltenders were up for the challenge, though. Holtby got better as the game went on, holding the fort in the third period when the Blades were outshot 16-7 and then stopping Nielsen on the penalty shot. Overall, Seattle outshot Saskatoon 35-28.
"Hockey is at its best when it's a close game," said Holtby, who leads the WHL with 13 victories. "Anyone can play in a 5-0 game, but it's the close ones that are fun. Fortunately, we've had pretty good luck in close games so far."
The Thunderbirds scored on their first official shot, which didn't come until the game was nearly nine minutes old. Jim O'Brien -- who hit the crossbar earlier -- tapped in a Parker pass before Holtby could slide across the crease.
Saskatoon defenceman Stefan Elliott tied the score 7:33 into the second. Sam Klassen's point shot bounced off a Seattle defender and straight back to Elliott who wired the puck past Calvin Pickard.
The teams went a combined 0-for-12 on the power play. Seattle penalty killers -- in particular, the Saskatoon-raised duo of Jeremy Boyer and David Richard -- wreaked havoc against an already-fragile Blade power play. Boyer created a shorthanded rush midway through the opening frame when he stripped the puck from Saskatoon pointman Ryan Funk and left a drop pass for Richard, but Holtby made the stop -- one of many bailouts on the night.
capitalize and once you get to a shootout, anything can happen," said Seattle head coach Rob Sumner.
BLADE BITS: The Blades scratched LW Mike Reich (flu), LW Curtis Hamilton (knee, 2-3 weeks) and C Travis Toomey (collarbone, 6-8 weeks). . . . The Spokane Chiefs, including Allan-raised D Jared Cowen, visit Credit Union Centre on Saturday. The Swift Current Broncos are in town Sunday for a 6 p.m. start.
THE SP's THREE STARS
1. Saskatoon G Braden Holtby -- Bailouts included penalty-shot save in OT.
2. Seattle RW Jeremy Boyer -- Tenacious penalty killing stymied Blades' PP.
3. Saskatoon D Stefan Elliott -- Scored Blades' lone regulation goal with point shot.
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008