Former Strathmore Storm goalie Austin Elliott earned an impressive feat earlier this week, as he shut out Connor Bedard in a game 7 playoff win. Elliott now suits up for the WHL team the Saskatoon Blades, he and his Blades bested Bedard's Regina Pats in a 4-1 win in front of close to 15 000 cheering fans.
Elliott said playing in front of a packed stadium was a special, once-in-a-lifetime type of moment that made an already exciting win even sweeter.
"It's really the first time and maybe even the last time that you'll play in front of that many people, so it's definitely crazy. You feel the energy all game from all the fans, it's electric when we score, when I make a big save, everybody in the rink gets on their feet and starts cheering."
Having a cheering stadium that could rival NHL games certainly gave the home team Blades a big boost as they battled to move into the second round of the playoffs.
"It definitely helps having that many people there that are cheering for us, they definitely help energize us and you really feel the support."
Winning a game 7 is already a challenging task, and it's made even more challenging when one of hockey's biggest names in Connor Bedard is suiting up opposite of you. However, Elliott and the Blades more than held their own, as Elliott stopped all three of Bedard's shot attempts and the team limited him to just one assist.
"It was a full team effort to keep a guy like that without a goal, he's obviously a special player and it feels extra good when you can shut a player like that down."
Elliott credited his teammates and the defense for executing their game plan to limit Bedard's impact on the game.
Having faced Bedard and the Pats several times in the regular season plus this playoff series, he said it came down to studying the tape of previous games and going over what worked and what didn't work. The Blades held Bedard pointless in regular season games earlier in the year, so Elliott said the team felt confident in their plan. However, he also knew that sometimes a player like Bedard will make plays no matter what, and you just have to find a way to continue sticking to your game plan.
As for how Elliott himself approached it, he said as a goalie you have to be extra focused when Bedard is on the ice.
"You gotta realize when he's out there, when he's on the ice and going in the game. You know you'll have to stare him down a couple of times throughout the game, so there is definitely a little bit more preparation and a little bit more focus when he's out there or when you're playing against him. He is such a good player that I think that brings out a little bit more from everyone on my team as well."
Winning the series against Bedard and the Pats in front of a huge crowd is definitely something worth celebrating, but Elliott says they can't rest on their laurels, as the job isn't done.
Their second-round series against the Red Deer Rebels begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Saskatoon.
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