Jake Neighbours is showing no sign of rookie jitters thus far in the 2019 Western Hockey League playoffs.
The Edmonton Oil Kings forward scored his second overtime goal of the post-season Saturday night as he fired a shot over Ian Scott’s glove hand at the 14:49 mark of the extra frame to give his team a 4-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling, but it’s a bit nicer to get one in an away barn,” said Neighbours, who scored at Rogers Place in Edmonton in a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Hitmen in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal round on April 6.
“There’s no such thing as a bad shot in overtime. The puck was rolling on me and I had no other play there but to shoot it. I ripped it on net and I found a good spot.”
Thanks to Neighbours’ fourth goal of the playoffs, the Oil Kings have evened up the Eastern Conference final at a game apiece as the scene shifts to Edmonton for Game 3 on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“Our goal coming into this weekend was to get a split away from home,” Neighbours said. “This is a tough building to play in and to have a result like this gives us some confidence as we go back to Edmonton.”
It looked like the Oil Kings were in for a rough evening early as the Raiders outshot them 8-0 in the opening 12 minutes and got goals from Noah Gregor and a returning Justin Nachbaur.
Soon after that, the Oil Kings took advantage of some penalty trouble for the Raiders and got goals from Matthew Robertson and Andrew Fyten to tie the game at two at the end of the opening frame.
“We had the game by the throat at the start until we started taking penalties,” Raiders captain Brayden Pachal said about the stretch, which saw the hosts give up 15 straight shots to the Oil Kings during a near 15-minute stretch of play in the first and second periods.
“I thought we were better than them when it was five-on-five, but the special teams play made the difference, which is often the case at this time of the year.”
Aliaksei Protas moved the Raiders back in front early in the third period, but Trey Fix-Wolansky evened things up a couple of minutes later to set the stage for the extra frame.
The Raiders best chance to get the win came at the five minute mark of overtime when Ozzy Wiesblatt was turned aside in front of the net by Oil Kings netminder Dylan Myskiw in what was easily his biggest save of the night.
“I thought we carried the play in overtime, but I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes things will go the other way,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.
“It’s an unfortunate result, but that’s hockey. We’ll feel sorry for ourselves for a few hours, but tomorrow’s another day.”
Rookie Jakob Brook led the Raiders on offence with a pair of assists, while Scott made 30 saves.
“I thought our depth guys played fine, but if they are providing our offence in limited minutes, that’s not a good sign,” Habscheid said. “We need our big bodies to get going. Our best players have to be our best players.”
Neighbours and Fix-Wolansky had a goal and an assist each for the Oil Kings, who received a 26-save showing from Myskiw.
Following Tuesday’s contest in Edmonton, the two sides will square off again Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Rogers Place before a return to the Prince Albert for Game 5 next Friday at 7 p.m.
Tickets will go on sale for that contest at 9 a.m. at the Art Hauser Centre box office, with online sales starting an hour later.
Following Saturday’s affair, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid expressed his displeasure with the number of times that the Oil Kings made contact with goaltender Ian Scott.
“It was kind of open season on him,” Habscheid said. “We depend on the officials to defend him out there as there’s no room for recourse these days.
“He was getting bumped, stuck and ran all game. They didn’t take care of that, which was disappointing. It can’t be open season on goaltenders. If it is, let us know.”
While the Raider fans weren’t pleased by it, the Oil Kings made sure to salute their traveling fanbase after the game as they cheered them on from one of the corners of the Art Hauser Centre.
“They support us all year long and they are on the road with us no matter where we go,” Neighbours said. “We try to let them know how much we appreciate their support when we get a win at an away barn.”
Neighbours is the only player in the CHL to score a pair of overtime winners in the playoffs this year, which matches the mark that Georgio Estephan had with the Swift Current Broncos last season.
Adam Tambelini is the last WHL player to score three overtime goals in the post-season, which he did with the Calgary Hitmen in 2015.
The Raiders have lost their last six overtime games in the playoffs, with their last triumph in an extra frame coming on May 1, 2005 in a 3-2 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.
The Oil Kings are now 4-0 in overtimes during the post-season, as they won once in the extra frame against the Medicine Hat Tigers and twice against the Calgary Hitmen.
With Justin Nachbaur returning to the squad after a two-game suspension, Loeden Schaufler was taken out of the Raiders lineup and joined Cole Nagy as the scratches.
The Oil Kings did not dress blueliners Logan Dowhaniuk, Jacson Alexander, Aidan Lawson and Keagan Slaney, along with forwards Dylan Guenther, Jalen Luypen and Carter Souch.
- Vancouver 4 Spokane 2 (Vancouver leads 2-0 – Jared Dmytriw – Two Goals)
- Ottawa 7 Oshawa 3 (Ottawa leads 2-0 – Sasha Chmelevski – Two Goals and Two Assists)
- Saginaw 4 Guelph 3 (Saginaw leads 2-0 – Ryan McLeod Overtime Winner – Owen Tippett Two Assists)
- Rouyn-Noranda 4 Rimouski 3 (Rouyn-Noranda leads 2-0 – Felix Bibeau – Two Goals)
- Halifax 5 Drummondville 4 (Series tied 1-1 – Arnaud Durandeau Double Overtime Winner – Raphael Lavoie – Three Goals and One Assist – First Career Playoff Hat Trick)
- Ottawa vs. Oshawa (Game 3) – 4 p.m.
- Saginaw vs. Guelph (Game 3) – 5 p.m.
- Halifax vs. Drummondville (Game 3) – 4 p.m.
- Rouyn-Noranda vs. Rimouski (Game 3) – 5:30 p.m.
- Prince Albert vs. Edmonton (Game 3) – 7 p.m.
- Vancouver vs. Spokane (Game 3) – 8 p.m.