Alberta trip has Blades jacked
By Cory Wolfe, The StarPhoenix
February 17, 2009
The Calgary Hitmen are like the giant white elephant in the Saskatoon Blades' dressing room.
Have the Blades thought about Wednesday's nationally televised date with the Hitmen at the Saddledome? Of course.
Do they want to talk about it? Not a chance. Before the Blades get a shot at the WHL leaders, they have to survive tonight's game with the cellar-dwelling Red Deer Rebels.
"We're in a battle for a division championship, so I don't think we're looking past anyone," said Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken, whose East Division-leading squad has a six-point cushion on the Brandon Wheat Kings. "Our games against Red Deer, outside of the last one (an 8-1 home-ice win Feb. 6), have been very, very competitive and that's our focus."
The Blades have lost only three games in the new year, but they opened their current four-game trip in humbling fashion -- a 7-1 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Saskatoon rebounded with a 4-3 win Saturday in Swift Current.
"In the games that we've lost, we haven't competed hard enough to win and it's a credit to the other teams, too," said Molleken. "I don't think that those are situations where we beat ourselves by making mistakes. We got outworked by the other teams. We've talked about that and addressed it. The guys know that if we want to maintain first place we have to be consistent."
The Blades are 2-1 against Red Deer this season. Darcy Kuemper, a native of Saskatoon, evened the season series by shutting out his hometown team 3-0 in December. In the rematch earlier this month, Kuemper was outstanding for the first period before the Blades broke through and cruised to an 8-1 win.
"They're in a bit of a rebuilding process," Molleken said of the Rebels. "In the last game we were fortunate to get some pucks past Kuemper but the game before, we weren't. We have to go to work from the top of the circles down. That's our strength and when we achieve that, we have a chance to win hockey games."
BLADE BITS: Blades winger Walker Wintoneak continues to be red-hot. He scored twice Saturday in a 4-3 win in Swift Current and has 11 goals in his last 11 games. Milan Kytnar and Darian Dziurzynski, who returned to the lineup after missing four starts with a hand injury, also scored for Saskatoon. . . . LW Jamie Crooks has joined the Blades for the rest of the season after his midget AAA Lloydminster Bobcats failed to qualify for playoffs. Crooks won the Alberta Midget Hockey League scoring title with 35 goals and 28 assists in 31 regular-season games. In six games with the Blades, he has a goal and an assist.
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This week's poll,
with last week's rank, team,
first-place votes in parentheses and total points:
T1 (1) Vancouver Giants (4) 172
T1 (2) Calgary Hitmen (4) 172
3. (3) Saskatoon Blades 154
4. (4) Tri-City Americans 146
5. (6) Spokane Chiefs 143
6. (7) Kelowna Rockets 139
7. (5) Brandon Wheat Kings 138
8. (8) Swift Current Broncos 114
9. (9) Medicine Hat Tigers 112
10. (10) Lethbridge Hurricanes 106
11. (11) Kootenay Ice 96
12. (12) Seattle Thunderbirds 91
13. (13) Kamloops Blazers 80
14. (15) Prince Albert Raiders 67
15. (14) Everett Silvertips 66
16. (16) Edmonton Oil Kings 56
17. (17) Regina Pats 47
18. (18) Prince George Cougars 44
19. (19) Red Deer Rebels 33
20. (21) Moose Jaw Warriors 24
21. (22) Portland Winter Hawks 13
22. (20) Chilliwack Bruins 11
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