Friday 20 October 2017

Day 2 Local Recap of the 2017 WHL Cup in Calgary

(WHL Press Release)

Manitoba 3 at Saskatchewan 4

Whatever doubts existed for Saskatchewan after their first game at the 2017 Western Hockey League Cup disappeared Thursday.

Saskatchewan made things interesting in the standings with a 4-3 win over Manitoba, giving both teams 1-1 records after their first two games inside the Markin MacPhail Arena at Winsport in Calgary, Alta.

Ethan Ernst (Kelowna Rockets) scored a pair of goals for Saskatchewan, while defenceman Austin Dycer (Medicine Hat Tigers) scored the game-winning goal on a shot tipped by a Manitoba defenceman and into his own net midway through the third period.

Seth Jarvis (Portland Winterhawks), Manitoba’s hero from Wednesday, continued to bring flash and flare to his province’s offensive attack, creating numerous chances in the first and requiring Saskatchewan goaltender Bryan Thompson (Red Deer Rebels) to be at his best.

That pressure kept building in the first minutes before Manitoba finally broke through. With Noah Wagner (Brandon Wheat Kings) battling for control of the puck on a dump-in, the Winnipeg native tied up his defender long enough for Brody Wilson (Kelowna Rockets) to step out to the side of the net with the puck unchallenged and beat Thompson for the first goal of the game.

Wagner continued to help his team at both ends of the ice, blocking a shot to keep Saskatchewan at bay while a tough shot from the point Nolan Ritchie (Brandon Wheat Kings) was handled easily by Thompson.

Saskatchewan was too hungry for a win on Thursday though, creating a three-on-one opportunity just past the midway mark of the first period. On that rush, Weyburn, Sask. native Ernst elected to shoot, scoring his first of the game on Nikulas Jerris to even things up after 20 minutes.

Manitoba kept up the pressure in the second. Defenceman Jakob Brook (Prince Albert Raiders) cut into the slot and rang the puck off the left post. Two Saskatchewan penalties put them on the defensive as Manitoba kept pressing for the go-ahead goal. Perhaps the best chance from those power play came for Stanley Cooley (Prince George Cougars) as he broke in on a short-handed chance and was barely knocked off the puck to snuff out the chance.

That was only a sign of things to come though as James Form (Kootenay ICE) was allowed to go unchallenged in front of the net, where he potted a rebound to put his Saskatchewan side ahead heading to the third.

Ernst doubled his province’s lead early in the third on a power play, cutting across the slot and sniping his second of the game past Jerris. That goal seemed to wake up Manitoba, as they picked up their strong pace of play minutes later.

Wagner continued to contribute offensively, dishing the puck from behind the net to Jackson Klewchuk, who was alone long enough in the slot to put his first of the tournament, bringing Manitoba within one.

It didn’t take Manitoba long after to tie up the game. Brook controlled the puck in the corner and sent a pass through the front of the crease to a wide-open Ritchie, who had all the time and space he needed to even up the game.

Despite furiously charging back, Manitoba would cause their own demise on a power play midway through the period. After taking a cross-ice feed from Alex Ozar (Saskatoon Blades), Dycer put all his strength into a shot from the blue line, though the puck changed direction after hitting the stick of a Manitoba defenceman, beating a surprised Jerris for the game-winning goal.

The win brought both teams to 1-1 in the standings, with Manitoba still edging their provincial neighbours on goal-differential.

Day Three at the 2017 WHL Cup
With wins from Saskatchewan and Alberta, an exciting third day of the tournament will take place Friday at the Markin MacPhail Centre.

Alberta has already claimed one of the top two spots in the round robin, with a 2-0 record so far. They’ll face the 1-1 squad from Manitoba, who will need a victory to secure themselves home-ice advantage in Saturday’s semi-finals. The game will still be important to Alberta, who can guarantee home-ice advantage through to Sunday’s medal games with a win.

Friday’s early game will pit a 1-1 Saskatchewan squad against an 0-1-0-1 squad from British Columbia. It goes without saying that a win is a must for B.C., who can still finish in second place with a regulation win and a Manitoba regulation loss.

Saskatchewan will be fighting for their own shot at second place, with a regulation victory giving them the best shot at claiming home-ice for one of Saturday’s semi-finals.

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