Stops include Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary to face the Rebels, Oil Kings and Hitmen, respectively, with three games in three days.

Author of the article:

Darren Zary  •  Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Riding a three-game win streak, the Saskatoon Blades are about to ride the bus for a three-game road swing through Alberta.

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Stops include Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary to face the Rebels, Oil Kings and Hitmen, respectively, with three games in three days.

It starts Friday in Red Deer as the Blades head into Alberta with plenty of confidence after winning four games during a five-game home-stand and picking up nine wins in their last 11 games.

“This whole week is really preparation for a big road trip and then you have to create your own momentum when the puck drops in Red Deer — we’ve got to get our own momentum right away,” said Blades head coach Brennan Sonne, whose team is 26-16-1-1 in the Western Hockey League this season.

Saskatoon sits in third place in the East Division behind the front-running Winnipeg Ice and Moose Jaw Warriors.

“It’s a big confidence booster for us before the next stretches of games,” Blades goalie Nolan Maier said after his team recorded a third straight win.

“It’s really positive for us.”

Although the Blades are currently five points back of the Warriors, they also enjoy five games in hand.

But, lately, they’ve had to use all remaining hands on deck. On Saturday night against Regina, the Blades were missing a number of players due to injury or illness. That included forwards Josh Pillar, Noah Boyko, Misha Volotovskii, Lukas Hansen and Josh Paulhus, as well as D-man Ben Saunderson.

Being short-staffed yet again, Sonne tinkered with the lineup against the Pats as rookie Tyler Parr got promoted to the top line with Tristen Robins and Kyle Crnkovic.

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“We’re down six or seven guys, so we have to do what we’ve got to do,” said Sonne. “It’s not ideal. He’s still young. You don’t want to put too much on guys and you don’t want to set up guys (for failure) or put them in bad situations. But he’s come along such a long way since the start of the year.

“He’s done really well for a 16-year-old, but it’s not ideal missing seven guys. You don’t put guys in tough situations.”

Parr has four of his seven points in the last five games.

For the Blades, Sonne says there are key items on their check-list every game. That includes a “big three” that top off every game plan.

“Our first one being passion and compete, our second one being desperate defence and our third one, playing fast,” explained Sonne. “Within those are a number of sub-categories and we try to check them off every single game.

“It’s not proper English, I know, but you don’t want to defend — you want to offend (go on the offensive). It’s a great way to create momentum. It’s a great way to release pressure from your D shift after shift in their zone defending. You create offence; you get the other team on their heels. It’s extremely important that you’re not in your end all the time. You have to penetrate into the offensive zone. You have to spend shifts longer than 10-15 seconds consecutively. You have to find your changes at the right time, so you’re not just jumping on the ice and back-checking all the time.”

Sonne is seeing improvement in execution of that game plan.

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“We’ve done that much better,” he noted. “I would use the (Trevor) Wong line as the prime example. They’re spending time in the offensive zone. They got rewarded (this past weekend). (The puck) has to get to the net when you spend all the time. It’s a huge momentum-builder and it’s the way we want to play.”

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