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Saskatoon Blades’ 18-game win streak ends on a series of strange plays on a snowy night

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Morgan Rielly had the overtime assist for Moose Jaw on Sunday (The Canadian  …

If the Saskatoon Blades had not lost the way they did, then Bridge City's most famous fabulist, Yann Martel, would have had to cook up the plot.

Generally speaking, a MasterCard Memorial Cup host team should not blow a four-goal third-period lead and lose 5-4 in overtime to the out-of-contention Moose Jaw Warriors, even though the Warriors do boast Morgan Rielly. It's not exactly a show of killer instinct; in fact, Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele said in a post-game interview that the unravelling really started in the second period, when Saskatoon began to miss the mark with its passes and thus failed to bury the Warriors.

Point being, though, maybe it's just a bunch of stuff that happened. Saskatoon, who by dint of the loser point moved ahead of the Calgary Hitmen for the second-best record in the WHL's Eastern Conference, probably had some puck luck during their streak, along with favourable schedule. It probably just evened out on Sunday, because the events that helped Moose Jaw come back to win were as far-fetched as the plot of Life of Pi.

Consider that:

— The overtime winner by Moose Jaw's Tanner Eberle came about entirely because of an inexplicable decision by Blades goalie Andrey Makarov, who also had his personal 18-game win streak. Moose Jaw blocked a shot and the puck ricocheted all the way to the Blades defensive zone with Rielly ahead of the pack. Somehow the fully padded Makarov decided he could win a puck race with a future rushing defenceman in the NHL, which is as far-fetched as you thinking you can run the 40-yard dash in fewer than 5.0 seconds.

— On Brayden Point's tying goal, the puck hit a linesman's skate, which helped the Warriors generate a rush. The Blades had overage defenceman Darren Dietz caught up ice. The 16-year-old Point (2G-2A, +2), by the way, factored into three of Moose Jaw's four third-period goals.

— Maybe Moose Jaw just had more imperative to win and should get credit. They were one night removed from being mathematically culled from the playoff herd. It was their last game of the season against the Blades, who are probably not too popular in small-market Saskatchewan team circles, after losing their first seven matchups. Their 16-year-old goalie, Justin Paulic, had made 199 saves in five previous losses against the Blades. They had enough rallying points to rise above their regular level of play, which also-ran teams sometimes do late in the season if a contender doesn't bury them.

Then the Warriors got tested even more when captain Kendall McFaull left the game with a mouth injury and had to be taken to hospital (through a snowstorm that's swept across Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, no less).

Paulic's 36 saves included a big stick stop that forced overtime and a breakaway stop in the second period.

— It was just an unusual night all-around. Blizzard conditions meant there were only about 1,200 fans physically in attendance. Every one deserved a parting gift for coming out.

Stuff happens; sometimes it's best not read too much into what looks like a lot of randomness. The irony is the one point Saskatoon earned for the 4-4 tie through 60 minutes nudged them ahead of the Calgary Hitmen for the second-best record in the WHL's Eastern Conference. The teams play again Tuesday, which is probably a better gauge of whether the Blades should be shortlisted or longlisted for potential post-season honours, to borrow the lingo from the literary world.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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