Raiders put Giants on the brink

Photo Courtesy of Gerry Kahrmann / PNG Brett Leason celebrates with Jeremy Masella and a group of Prince Albert Raiders fans after his game-winning goal in Game 4 of the Western Hockey League final against the Vancouver Giants Wednesday night in Langley.

It was a totally different game from Tuesday’s 8-2 win, but the big guns for the Prince Albert Raiders came up big when their team needed them most Wednesday in Langley, B.C.

Brett Leason’s third period breakaway goal and a 36-save showing from Ian Scott were the difference makers as the Raiders picked up a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Giants and find themselves on the verge of their first Ed Chynoweth Cup title since 1985 as they now hold a 3-1 series lead.

“We’re one shot away,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “The great thing about being in a situation like that is that the guys can smell it and motivation isn’t much of a factor.

“With that said, we can’t get ahead of ourselves and we still have a lot of respect for Vancouver. We’ll enjoy this until midnight, have the guys stay away from the rink tomorrow and start building things up for Friday.”

Leason’s goal came at the 4:21 mark of the final frame and moments after the Giants had fired a number of chances at the Raiders net.

Blueliner Jeremy Masella was able to clear the puck out of danger and Aliaksei Protas was able to slide the puck up to Leason, who then raced in on goal and sniped the puck past Giants netminder David Tendeck.

“I was skating as fast as I could to get down there and I saw their goalie come out of his net a little bit,” said Leason, who is now tied with Giants blueliner Bowen Byram for the WHL scoring lead with 23 points. “I figured he would open up his blocker a little bit and that’s where I shot it.”

“In big moments like that you expect big players to step up,” Habscheid added. “There are times where guys might shy away from situations like that, but Brett and Ian certainly didn’t and they stepped up for us tonight.”

Scott, who earned his fifth shutout of the playoffs Wednesday, made his best stop of the night with 7:37 to go in regulation as he stretched out to make a glove save on Washington Capitals prospect Alex Kannok-Leipert, who was attempting to convert a brilliant pass from Byram.

“I was just trying to get something in front of the shot,” Scott said. “He was wide open there and I was doing whatever I could to make the save.”

“I saw Bowen make a nice play and I just tried to get the puck off as quick as I could,” Kannok-Liepert added. “Ian just got there a little bit quicker.”

Tendeck was also on his game for the hosts as he made 25 saves, including a big stop on a breakaway by Sergei Sapego in the second period to keep the game scoreless.

“I thought David played extremely well,” Giants head coach Michael Dyck said. “He gave us a chance to win tonight.

“I was really proud with the way that the guys responded tonight as it wasn’t an easy situation to be in after last night’s loss. It was a step in the right direction, but now our backs against the wall and we need to keep pushing forward.”

As the Giants prepare for Friday’s fifth game in the series, which gets underway at 8:30 p.m. in Langley, they find themselves in a daunting situation.

No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Ed Chynoweth Cup series during the Western Hockey League’s internet era, which dates back to 1996.

“It doesn’t matter how you played in your last game,” Giants forward Milos Roman said. “You are always motivated to try and win.

“It was a good effort from us tonight, but we need to do better with our scoring chances.”

For the Raiders, Friday’s contest will be the biggest for the team since their Memorial Cup season in 1985, which saw them sweep the Kamloops Blazers in the league final on their way to their only national championship.

“The most chances you have to win this league as a player is five times,” Habscheid said. “It’s a tough trophy to win.

“They can’t grab it yet but our guys can see it.”

Post-Game Notes

With Wednesday’s performance, Ian Scott is now one clean sheet behind Dustin Slade of the 2006 Vancouver Giants and Stuart Skinner of the 2018 Swift Current Broncos for the most shutouts in a WHL post-season.

His 36-save performance was the most by a netminder during a shutout win in this year’s playoff, as the previous best mark a 32-save showing from Mads Sogaard of the Medicine Hat Tigers in a 5-0 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 3 of their first round series back in May.

Leason’s third period goal also moved him into a tie with Riley Woods of the Spokane Chiefs for the longest point streak in this year’s playoffs at seven games.

Prior to Wednesday’s loss, the Giants hadn’t lost consecutive home games at the Langley Events Centre since Games 4 and 6 of their opening round series with the Victoria Royals last year.

Max Martin missed his second straight game for the Raiders, while the Giants did not dress Landon Fuller, Tyler Ho, Aidan Barfoot and Nic Draffin.

Wednesday’s Scores

OHL

  • Guelph 5 Ottawa 4 (Series tied 2-2 – Nick Suzuki – One Goal and Two Assists)

Thursday’s Schedule

  • Halifax vs. Rouyn-Noranda (Game 5) – 5 p.m.

Friday’s Schedule

  • Guelph vs. Ottawa (Game 5) – 5 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Vancouver (Game 5) – 8:30 p.m.