The Prince Albert Raiders pushed the visiting Regina Pats to the brink of an overtime loss Friday night, but an odd-man rush and a laser shot from defenceman Josh Mahura foiled the home side’s chance for a victory.
In a game that saw the Raiders and the Pats trade blows and test each other’s goalies throughout regulation time, the visiting side managed to persevere and capitalize on a bad line change from the Raiders in the extra frame, winning 2-1 on Mahura’s goal at 1:55 of overtime.
After the win, a satisfied and tired-looking Mahura noted how tough it was for his team to earn the victory.
“Prince Albert over there came to play tonight, and they played hard on us,” the 19-year-old said.
The Raiders skated with the Pats and at times out-skated them. Much of the Raiders’ success was due to a solid defensive outing that forced Regina to shoot on goalie Curtis Meger from the perimeter areas of his zone.
“They’re awesome, good puck movers – all of them … We’re really good in the d-zone, and I think that shows we have lots of offensive-zone time because of them,” Meger said after the game.
The 19-year-old goalie stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced, and he earned the game’s first star.
He and Mahura agreed the night’s tight game was a character-building tilt for each respective team.
“They came really hard and we tried weathering their storm a couple times, and they tried to weather our storm a couple times,” Mahura said. “Both teams definitely played hard tonight.”
Despite the tough loss, Meger remained positive. “I think today is something we can definitely take going into Brandon this weekend and build off of it.”
The Raiders and the Pats skated to a 0-0 draw after the first period, leaving the shot count at 13-10 for Regina.
Prince Albert killed off two Regina powerplays in the frame, including a four-minute double minor assessed to Nikita Krivokrasov for slew-footing a Regina player in the Pats’ end.
The tight, back-and-forth play continued through most of the second period until 19:01, when the Pats broke the draw.
After Sam Steel fired a shot wide on Meger’s left side, the puck bounced off the end boards behind the Raiders’ net to a waiting Emil Oksanen on the other side. The Finish rookie buried the puck into the gaping net after Meger over-committed the opposite way on Steel’s shot.
Oksanen nabbed his eighth goal and 15th point of the season with the score. He now leads WHL rookies in goals and points.
Not to be outdone, Spencer Moe kept his side in it soon after the third period started.
Skating into Regina’s zone with Justin Nachbaur on a two-on-one against the Pats’ Dawson Davidson, Moe kept to Tyler Brown’s left side and sniped a direct wrist shot on Brown’s left side, just above his glove and into the top shelf.
The score was tied 1-1.
The Pats, and especially Mahura, Oksanen and Matt Bradley, kept the pressure on until regulation time ticked down; Meger and co. stood tall and withheld Regina’s onslaught.
The Raiders had no shots on Brown once overtime started, and its skaters looked all but exhausted in the extra frame.
Once the Pats spotted the chance for the odd-man rush, they pounced.
Bradley carried the puck into the Raiders’ zone on Meger’s left side. He turned halfway, spotted Mahura in the high slot, passed him the puck and let him do the rest.
The defenceman kept the puck on the ice and snapped it home, giving it enough juice to squeeze through Meger’s five-hole for the win.
The Raiders’ goalie looked back to see the puck heading into his net. For a moment, he stayed in the crease and took in the loss.
“He just stops the ones he should,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said of Meger, complimenting his play. “Tonight he stopped the ones he should … and he did that tonight and gave us a chance.”
The Raiders were 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while the Pats were 0-for-4.
Prince Albert (3-3-1-0) will now head to Manitoba for a pair of back-to-back games against the Brandon Wheat Kings (5-2-0-1) over the weekend.