By: Adam Kulak

The Saints kicked off three home games in four nights the right way.  They had a strong opening 40 minutes and fended off a Drumheller surge in the 3rd period to win 4-3 here at the Grant Fuhr Arena.  Liam McCloskey would get his 17th start of the season and Brady Nicholas would make his Saints debut after being called up from the St. Albert Raiders.

The Saints got the start that they wanted in tonight’s game, pulling out to a two-goal lead in the opening period.  Both teams haven’t played since Saturday, so they were both well rested in this one.  There was only one penalty in the period as Evan Wood would go off for roughing, however McCloskey and the Saints penalty killers did a great job of killing it off.  Just a couple minutes after the penalty expired the Saints would open the scoring.  The puck bounced to Seth Fyten who burst in on a breakaway to beat Dragons goaltender Hunter Virostek for the 1-0 lead.  The Saints forced a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone and did a good job of defending Drumheller’s transition game.  With 1:30 left in the period, Ryan Peckford with a great individual effort, fighting off a Drumheller defender then drops it back for Nick Leyer for the one timer to put the Saints up 2-0.  That would be all the scoring in the period as the shots in the period were 10-8 for the Saints after 20.

Even though the scoring was even in the period, the Saints came out with one of their best second periods they’ve played all season.  They really started to take control of the game in the middle frame, spending much of the second in the offensive zone and outshooting the Dragons 23-2(!) in the period.  They did not give Drumheller any time and space to make plays, they could not transition cleanly and establish any zone time because there were always one or two Saints players on them.  Just 15 seconds into the period, Peckford would fire a shot on net down the wing and the rebound came right out to Nick Leyer for his 2nd of the night.  The Saints would get their first Powerplay opportunity 6 minutes in as Matt Raymond would go off for interference.  They got good zone time but couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage as both teams would be 1/1 on the kill.  Late in the period, Drumheller would get on the board as a broken play led to a breakaway and Brady Risk made no mistake.  Shots after 40 were 33-10 for the Saints as they head into the final 20 with a 2-goal lead.

The third period was much more evenly played, Drumheller was much better in the final period making it a close game as the period went on.  The Saints started getting sloppy with their puck movement in the first half of the period.  They weren’t making easy passes as often as they were in the first 40 and Drumheller started creating a lot of chances off the rush.  It was the Saints with the first goal of the period less than a minute in again.  The Harden – Nicholas – Basnett line had a good shift in the offensive zone and Mackenzie Harden would capitalize on an opportunity out front to give the Saints a three-goal cushion.  This was a very important goal in the game because Drumheller would push in the final period and would make it come down the wire.  Minutes later, Roc Truman would bang in the rebound on the doorstep to make it 4-2.  With 3 minutes to go in the game, the Dragons would get another bang in goal as Shane Ott would be the beneficiary as the Dragons pulled to within one.  Fortunately, the Saints would hold, outshooting Drumheller 43-23 on route for the 4-3 win.

The Saints were the better team in this one for probably 45-50 minutes of this game.  They defended the blueline well and were the first to pucks in the offensive and defensive zones.  Drumheller didn’t really generate anything until the third period as the Saints did an excellent job defensively for most of this game.  The Peckford – Mitchell – Leyer line was clicking again tonight with Peckford and Leyer each with multiple point games.  The Harden – Nicholas – Basnett line was also solid in this one, combining for the game winning goal early in the third.

The Saints are back in action Friday night as they welcome the Fort McMurray Oil Barons here to Grant Fuhr Arena, puck drop at 7:00pm.