Saskatoon Blades captain plays overtime hero in playoff opener

WATCH ABOVE: The Saskatoon Blades needed overtime beat the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-2 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.

The Saskatoon Blades waited six years to get back into the Western Hockey League (WHL) playoffs and their return delivered plenty of drama as the Blades came back to beat the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-2 in overtime to take a 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarter-final.

Blades captain Chase Wouters scored the deciding goal 3:23 into sudden death, flying down the left wing before sending a backhander on goal from a bad angle that fooled Warriors goaltender Brodan Salmond.

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Wouters’ first career playoff goal sent the crowd of 5,193 at SaskTel Centre into a frenzy as they celebrated Saskatoon’s first WHL playoff win since April 3, 2011.

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Game 1 started tentatively as both teams looked to avoid making mistakes. A scoreless first period produced very few scoring chances despite the Warriors outshooting the Blades 14-11 in the frame.

Moose Jaw opened the scoring 3:03 into the second period. After a Blades turnover, Luke Ormsby fired a shot on goal that produced a juicy rebound for Kaeden Taphorn, who slid the puck into the goal.

The Warriors doubled their lead 1:21 later on a three-on-two rush. Eastern Conference Defenceman of the Year Josh Brook dropped the puck for rookie call-up Eric Alarie who beat Maier for his first ever WHL goal.

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The Blades cut the lead in half on a power play at 7:21 of the second. Nolan Kneen’s point shot was blocked but the puck bounced right to Max Gerlach and the Blades leading goal scorer during the regular season hammered a slap shot past Salmond.

Saskatoon outshot Moose Jaw by a 14-6 margin in the middle frame.

The Blades would get the equalizer just past the midway mark of the third period after some good forechecking. Salmond couldn’t handle a puck in his crease and it popped out to Riley McKay in the slot. The league’s penalty minutes leader showed off his soft hands, sliding the biscuit past Salmond for the tying goal, setting up Wouters’ overtime heroics.

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Blades defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus assisted on the tying goal and the winner, playing a big role in defeating his former team.

The final shot tally read 38-23 in favour of the Blades.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Saturday in Saskatoon.

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