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'Familiarity breeds contempt': Saskatoon Blades rivalry heats up

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The Saskatoon Blades stumbled out of the gates as they were unable to sustain pressure on the Regina Pats in the WHL playoffs opener Friday night.

While the two teams met twice in the final week of the regular season, splitting a win each, the intensity has picked up for the postseason.

“I think because we played them so much recently, there’s a bit of added familiarity,” said Blades head coach Brennan Sonne after the game. “And that familiarity breeds contempt. I think that’s what you’re seeing and it’ll be amplified as we play them in a seven-game series.”

The Pats, who out-checked and blocked shots in the opening two periods, were happily taking a 2-0 lead to the second intermission.

That, despite being outshot 23-12 by the Blades.

“We’ve been better in that area,” said Pats coach and general manager, John Paddock. “We’ve been more responsible, and we just did a better job. That’s something that we’ve talked about, not just this past week, we’ve talked about it period.”

The WHL’s leading scorer in the regular season, Connor Bedard, was an impact player in game one.

He finished with two goals and an assist, one goal was a game-winner and the other was a highlight-reel play that’s making rounds on social media.

A single Blades goal by Lukas Hansen was all they could get past goaltender Drew Sim, who led his team to a 6-1 win and an early 1-0 series lead.

Sonne says his team needs to play more desperate hockey to have success in the postseason.

“The first 40 minutes, we were structurally sound and a little clinical,” he said. “But we’ve got to get out of the clinic and onto the streets in my opinion. I think we have another level of desperate, and while it’s great to be structured and follow the plan, there’s also got to be a little bit of desperate.”

While Bedard says the nastiness was missing in the regular season finale, facing the same opponent this many times can only lead to more bad blood as the series progresses.

“It’s playoffs,” he said. “It’s going to be more physical. It’s going to be faster. You’re going to hate each other more and more. And especially with us playing each other so much recently, I think it’s even added. So we don’t like them, they don’t like us. That’s playoffs.”

The Blades and Pats return to Sasktel Centre on Sunday for game two, before the series heads to Regina for games three and four.

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