Losing skid up to five games after tough loss in Prince George
The Prince Albert Raiders wrapped up their road trip tonight against the B.C. division’s top team, the Prince George Cougars. Some good news came down the pipe on their travel day as Ian Scott, Simon Stransky and Zack Hayes were named to the CHL’s Players to Watch list. Scott was the only goalie in junior hockey given the “A” ranking, which makes him a candidate for the first round in the upcoming NHL draft. Hayes and Stransky fell under the “C” grade, projecting them to go between the fourth and sixth rounds.
Tonight it was Scott’s counterpart in between the pipes, Nicholas Sanders, as the Raiders searched for their first win on the five-game trip. The Raider netminder was in his cubicle with his suit and tie on, stringing together 30 saves in the 4-2 loss. Offensively, Parker Kelly scored his fourth of the season, while Cavin Leth blasted home his second of the trip.
“I thought our guys — at the end of the trip and not having a lot of success — I thought we hung in there and battled,” general manager Curtis Hunt said.
“Especially our goaltending … We had a chance all the way into the third because of the work of Sanders tonight.”
Prince George took a 1-0 lead after Sanders was absolutely phenomenal in the early-going of the opening frame. Number 30 made a stellar, desperation save on Colby McAuley before the Cats broke the scoreless deadlock. The third-year Cougar, Jared Bethune, intercepted a pass inside the defensive zone of the Raiders and backhanded his ninth across the goal line. For the third consecutive game, Prince George was able to find the scoresheet first.
Luke Coleman did what he could to even the contest for Prince Albert, but was denied by Ty Edmonds on a pair of stellar chances. Edmonds came into the tilt with a goals against average of 2.07 — second in the WHL.
He ended the game stopping 30 of 32 shots.
The Cougars doubled their lead just 1:40 into the middle stanza. A nicely orchestrated power play was finished by Kody McDonald. Tate Olsen teed up the Lethbridge product, who potted his fifth. Jansen Harkins drew the second assist.
In transition, Tim Vanstone and the Raiders were an inch away from answering. Flying down the left wing with Leth, the captain fired a shot that Edmonds got a piece of, just enough to re-route the puck away from the crease. The ice was tilting in the Raiders favour midway through the second, and as their fourth straight power play expired, Kelly was able to deflect a Cameron Reagan shot into the back of the net to cut the lead to 2-1.
“Give the Kelly line a lot of credit. I thought they came out, got the puck right back in and went to work,” Hunt said following the loss.
“It’s not a complicated formula, you go to those tough areas and you get pucks through. That’s what those guys did and because of it, they were rewarded.”
Prince Albert came out of the locker room in the third period with some serious steam, leaving the Cougars hemmed inside their own zone for the better half of the frame. One mistake and one incredible no-look feed would change things. Brad Morrison capitalized on a takeaway, weaving through the defence before his pass found the blade of Jesse Gabrielle. The goal-scorer beat a sprawling Sanders for his 11th of the year and provided the ultimate dagger. McAuley later added an insurance marker, putting away a cross-crease pass from Josh Curtis.
The green and gold came within two after Leth stepped over the blue line and rifled a far-side shot on Edmonds, but that was all the offence could muster.
Prince Albert now makes the 13-hour bus ride home with an 0-5 record on the road trip. They scored nine goals over that span and have dropped to the cellar of the WHL.
“Obviously we are disappointed because it’s result oriented,’ Hunt said.
“There was just a few times where we weren’t at our best. In the end, it’s the work ethic, the compete [level], those are the parts we can control as players … it will be a long ride home for the guys, but the sun will come up tomorrow and we need to continue to work, be better for our goaltenders and be better for each other.”
The team will get a few days off before they take on the Swift Current Broncos Nov. 23 at the Art Hauser Centre. Some home cooking never hurts.
Daily Herald THREE STARS
1) Jesse Gabrielle (GWG)
2) Parker Kelly (1 G, 1 A)
3) Nicholas Sanders (30 SVs)
Racking up the mileage
Over the course of the B.C. trip, the Raiders were on the bus for approximately 45 hours in between cities — good for 4,189 KMs travelled.