Ice strike early and often
Take stranglehold in series against Blades
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It was as dominant a performance as the Winnipeg Ice could’ve asked for in a pivotal situation. Now the top-ranked Western Hockey League club finds itself on the brink of making team history.
The Ice rode a strong effort in the first period to a 5-1 triumph over the Saskatoon Blades in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday in Saskatchewan.
Winnipeg has a 3-0 stranglehold on the best-of-seven series and can punch its ticket to the WHL championship Wednesdsay night for the first time since the franchise relocated to the Manitoba capital in 2019. The puck drops on Game 4 in Saskatoon at 8 p.m.
Matthew Savoie led the offensive output with three points (one goal, two assists) while Zach Benson, Evan Friesen, Connor McClennon and Owen Pederson rounded out an attack that has scored four or more goals in nine of 13 contests this post-season. Winnipeg has outscored Saskatoon 14-3 thus far in the series. Goaltender Daniel Hauser enjoyed one of the quieter nights he’s seen this season, stopping 13 of 14 shots.
Justin Lies, a product of Flin Flon, who was injured in the final frame of Tuesday night’s contest, scored the lone goal for the hosts.
Lies would be the latest added to a growing injury list for the Blades. Already down two of their regular defencemen, the Blades were also without one of their best scorers in Belarusian forward Yegor Sidorov, the 81st-ranked North American skater in the upcoming NHL Draft, in Game 3.
The hosts surely could’ve used some of that firepower early as the Ice were hot out of the gates. It was a near-perfect opening period on the road for Winnipeg, as the club outshot the Blades 12-5 while dominating the time on attack.
Savoie, got things started on the power play less than three minutes into the game, jumping on a loose puck in front of the Blades’ crease to register his team-leading 11th goal of the post-season.
Following a slew of chances, the visitors broke through again as the period approached its midpoint, when Savoie fought off a pair of Blades defenders in the corner before finding a wide-open Benson in the high slot, from where he fired a low-rolling screamer between the wickets of goaltender Ethan Chadwick to extend the Ice lead.
Friesen followed 45 seconds later with another tally, at which point it felt like the Blades would need a miracle if they were to find a way to win.
The Ice were on the right side of the special teams battle once again, going three-for-six on the power play while stymieing both of the Blades’ opportunities with the man advantage.
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.