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Saskatoon Blades set lofty goals ahead of WHL opening weekend

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There are just two sleeps until the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats kick off their regular season Saturday night in Regina.

While they’ve already met in the exhibition season, it’s the first time the games will count since the thrilling seven-game playoff series in April.

Last year, the Blades accomplished 14 out of 16 goals they set at the start of the year. This year, head coach Brennan Sonne is clear about the expectation.

“I want to hang the East Division banner for first place in the east in the regular season,” Sonne told reporters after practise. “And I want to win a WHL championship. It’s pretty simple.”

To do that, he’ll need veteran players to show the new faces how the Blades conduct themselves.

With the departure of captain Aidan De La Gorgendiere, third-year Blade Trevor Wong becomes the team’s 62nd captain.

Sonne says while he’s not as loud as De La Gorgendiere, he brings the same intangibles to the team.

“His competitiveness, his passion; being a good teammate,” said Sonne. “They’re different people for sure, but Wonger absolutely brings what you need to be a good captain.”

While he’s worn the C on his jersey for other teams in his career, doing it in the WHL brings added responsibility.

“I’ve worn the C in peewee and bantam and stuff, so definitely not as serious as the Western Hockey League here,” said Wong. “It’s obviously a huge honour for me and to be part of this organization, to wear the C this year for this team is very special.”

Wong more than doubled his point production in 2022-23 with 27 goals and 59 assists, but he credits that to his linemates.

“Every year you play in this league you gain a little bit more confidence,” said Wong. “But my linemates Lizzo [Lisowsky] and Sido [Sidorov] were great so it made my job easy.”

Entering the season ranked ninth in the CHL’s Preseason Top 10, the country is tapping the Blades to be a contender. But Wong says it’s not their focus.

“For us, our goal is the championship, not to be ranked in the Top 10,” said Wong. “It’s much bigger than that and we have to take it a day at a time, but our standards are very high and that’s what we chase every day.”

Among the new faces learning “the Blades way,” Slovakian import defenseman Samuel Barcik is adjusting to a smaller rink, a different language, and country music in the dressing room.

But a close-knit team and a solid billet family makes things easier for the rookie.

“All the guys are so nice and they’re making it easier,” said Barcik. “I miss my family, but my billets give me the feeling like I’m family, so this helps me a lot.”

The deadline to reduce rosters to three 20-year-olds is October 10. The Blades moved overage forward Jayden Wiens to Brandon on Wednesday, reducing their number to four.

Coaching staff will have to decide between Trevor Wong, Charlie Wright, Spencer Shugrue and Jake Chiasson, who is currently at Edmonton Oilers training camp.

The Blades head to Regina for the Pats’ home opener on Saturday night, followed by their first game of the season at SaskTel Centre Sunday afternoon against the Prince Albert Raiders. 

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