Blades shoot down Hitmen
Makarov stands tall in 4-1 win
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
November 3, 2011
Saskatoon Blades forward Nick Zajac, left, gets set to deliver a hit on Calgary Hitmen forward Joey Kornelson during WHL action Wednesday night at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon. The Blades won 4-1.
Photograph by: Richard Marjan, The Starphoenix, The StarPhoenix
Blades 4, Hitmen 1
There's an old adage that luck and skill go hand in hand, and Andrey Makarov proved that to be true against the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday night.
The Blades netminder - who was officially named to the Russian team for the WHL portion of Subway Super Series prior to the game - made 39 saves and was the reason the Blades beat the Hitmen 4-1 at the Credit Union Centre.
But while Makarov made his share of tough stops, he also got some support from his defencemen and his goalposts as three Hitmen shots clanged off the irons in the second period.
"It's a net and sometimes the posts help the goalie," he said. "Sometimes help and sometimes not, but today it helped me (three times)."
The Blades got on the board at 5: 15 into the game when Darren Dietz whipped a wrist shot past Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger from the half boards. It was Dietz's third goal of the season, all of which have been the opening goal in a game.
The lead increased to 2-0 before the end of the period when Matej Stransky took a pass from Josh Nicholls then darted between Hitmen defencemen Collin Bowman and Brock Sutherland and slid the puck by Driedger.
"It's tough when you fall behind to a good hockey team," Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson said. "Saskatoon doesn't give up a whole lot and their D do a good job of boxing out, making it tough for your forwards to get to the net. That was the difference it the hockey game."
The Hitmen started to dictate the offensive chances in the second as right-winger Brooks Macek hit the post twice and Makarov had to make a couple unconventional pad saves.
He also had a little assistance from his blue-liners.
The biggest defensive play came from Kyle Schmidt, who tied up the stick of Calgary's Chase Clayton when it looked like the centre would have an open-net tap-in after a perfect pass from teammate Kenton Helgesen.
"All I could think of was getting that little poke back at them," Schmidt said. "If you stop a goal, it's a different game there."
It was Schmidt's first time facing his former team since being traded to the Blades on Sept. 14 for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. He was inserted into the lineup in place of roommate Zach Hodder.
"Tonight was actually a different experience for me," Schmidt said. "I didn't get in as much talking before faceoffs as I wanted to, but it was good times."
After all of the Hitmen chances, Nicholls scored a controversial goal when he jammed a loose puck by Driedger with 3: 45 left in the period to give the Blades a 3-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Lukas Sutter added another Saskatoon goal in the third before Clayton finally spoiled Makarov's shutout bid with 9: 46 remaining on a Blades delayed penalty.
The goal came on the 35th shot of the night for the Hitmen as they finished with 40 to the Blades' 30.
"I wish I'd had the shutout," Makarov said, "but the way I win today is better for me and better for the team."
The Blades now get a day off before making their first visit to Mosaic Place on Friday when they play the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Blades then return home for a matchup with the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday night.
BLADE BITS: Makarov will start for Team Russia in Regina on Nov. 16. "I want to keep going and win against Canada," he said. "Why not?" . . . Former Blade Darian Dziurzynski was supposed to make his return to Credit Union Centre next Tuesday, but that will likely now be on hold. The WHL suspended the Brandon Wheat King indefinitely on Wednesday after the he was issued a major penalty for charging in the last minute of his team's 7-3 win over the Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday night. The left-winger has six goals and 19 penalty minutes in seven games with Brandon since being traded by the Blades on Oct. 16.
SP'S 3 STARS
1. Saskatoon Blades G Andrey Makarov - Despite failed shutout bid, the goaltender was easily the best player on the ice.
2. Calgary Hitmen RW Brooks Macek - No puck luck as he easily could have had a multi-point night.
3. Saskatoon Blades LW Matej Stransky - Scored another highlight reel goal for his eighth of the year.