Blades shutout Raiders in Game 3

Photo Courtesy of Liam Richards/Saskatoon StarPhoenix Saskatoon Blades goalie Nolan Maier stops a shot as Prince Albert Raiders forward Cole Fonstad falls during the second period of WHL playoff action at SaskTel Centre Tuesday.

Back on Dec. 9, 2018, the Saskatoon Blades became the first team in the Western Hockey League to shutout the Prince Albert Raiders this season.

On Tuesday night, they became the second side to accomplish that feat.

Nolan Maier made 26 saves for his first career playoff shutout and Kirby Dach’s first period goal proved to be the difference as the Blades picked up a 1-0 win at the SaskTel Centre in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Raiders.

“I don’t know if there’s a big secret or anything,” Maier joked. “My team really helps me out a lot. They keep the shots to the outside and they help me through the tough situations.”

“Our complete level has improved a lot as this series has gone on. It wasn’t there on Friday and we had it for the most part on Sunday, except for when they were able to come back in that two and a half minute stretch, so it was nice to have that full 60-minute effort tonight.”

Tuesday’s win was a huge one for the Blades as they now trail the Raiders 2-1 in the best-of-seven affair.

“That was a must-win for our team,” Blades head coach Mitch Love said. “You don’t want to go down 3-0 against a strong team like the Raiders.

“I thought it was a pretty entertaining old school 1-0 playoff game and both goalies were on their game. I know the Raiders will find a way to elevate their play tomorrow night and we’ll need to do the same.”

After Dach banged home a rebound just four minutes into the game, the Blades kept trying to solve Ian Scott but were unable to do so as the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect turned aside 26 shots.

At the other end of the ice, the Raiders pushed the envelope late to try and tie up the game, with Maier mentioning that at least one shot hit the post in the final minute.

“I thought we were good enough to win tonight and we were much better than we were on Sunday,” Habscheid said. “Their goalie made some key saves and we had a few pucks that bounced on our sticks when we had scoring opportunities, but we generated a lot of chances.

“We didn’t think we’d go unbeaten in the playoffs though. Now we’ll just get prepared for tomorrow.”

After Wednesday’s fourth meeting in the series, which gets underway at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre, the two sides will head up to the Art Hauser Centre for Game 5 at 7 p.m. Friday.

Tickets for the contest will go on sale at the Art Hauser Centre box office at 9 a.m. Thursday, with online sales starting an hour later.

Post-Game Notes

Maier’s 26-save performance was the first playoff shutout for the Blades since April 2, 2011, when Steven Stanford stopped all 30 shots he faced in a 8-0 win over the Raiders in Game 5 of their first round series.

The Raiders were last held off the scoresheet in a playoff game on March 28, 2018 in a 2-0 loss to the Moose Jar Warriors that saw Brody Willms make 32 saves.

Dorrin Luding returned to the Blades lineup as the backup goaltender, but defenceman Recce Harsch was out of the squad for a second straight game due to an injury that has him questionable for Game 4 according to Love.

Koen MacInnes, Alex Ozar, Randen Schmidt and Colton Dach were also scratched by the Blades, while Loeden Schaufler did not dress for the Raiders.

Tuesday’s Scores

WHL

  • Vancouver 5 Victoria 4 (Vancouver leads 3-0 – Owen Hardy Overtime Winner – Two Goals – Griffen Outhouse – 52 Saves)
  • Edmonton 2 Calgary 1 (Edmonton leads 3-0 – Wyatt McLeod Overtime Winner – Zach Russell – One Goal and One Assist)

OHL

  • Ottawa 8 Sudbury 5 (Ottawa leads 3-0 – Hudson Wilson – Three Assists)
  • Oshawa 4 Niagara 1 (Niagara leads 2-1 – Serron Noel – Two Goals)
  • Saginaw 7 Sault Ste. Marie 5 (Saginaw leads 3-0 – Owen Tippett – One Goal and Two Assists)

QMJHL

  • Halifax 4 Moncton 2 (Halifax leads 3-0 – Raphael Lavoie – Two Goals)
  • Rimouski 3 Cape Breton 0 (Rimouski leads 2-1 – Alexis Lafreniere – Two Goals – Colten Ellis – 18 Saves – First Career Playoff Shutout)
  • Rouyn-Noranda 8 Victoriaville 0 (Rouyn-Noranda leads 3-0 – Louis-Filip Cote – One Goal and Three Assists)

Monday’s Scores

OHL

  • London 7 Guelph 4 (London leads 3-0 – Evan Bouchard – Two Goals and Two Assists)

QMJHL

  • Sherbrooke 5 Drummondville 2 (Drummondville leads 2-1 – Felix Robert – One Goal and Two Assists)

Wednesday’s Schedule

QMJHL

  • Halifax vs. Moncton (Game 4) – 4 p.m.
  • Drummondville vs. Sherbrooke (Game 4) – 5 p.m.

OHL

  • London vs. Guelph (Game 4) – 5 p.m.

WHL

  • Prince Albert vs. Saskatoon (Game 4) – 7 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Calgary (Game 4) – 7 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Spokane (Game 3) – 8 p.m.