Backstopped by goalie Ian Scott and spurred by a multi-point game from their top line, the Prince Albert Raiders dispatched the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings 4-1 Friday night in Western Hockey League Action from the Art Hauser Centre.
Scott made his third consecutive start and played to his third consecutive win since returning from a lower body injury that kept him sidelined for four weeks. He turned aside 34 of the Wheat Kings’ 35 shots, earning a 0.971 save percentage.
“It was another good team effort. We played a full 60 minutes and it definitely showed on the scoreboard. The offence helped, too, and we were able to find the net a lot easier,” he said.
Scott’s efforts were aided by a potent Raiders’ offence that found scoring success early.
At 1:05 of the first period, centreman Jordy Stallard scored when his wrist shot deflected off Brandon defenceman Kade Jensen’s stick. The altered puck movement fooled goalie Dylan Myskiw, who was caught with his glove too low as the black rubber sailed by him.
Stallard’s linemate Cole Fonstad assisted on the goal.
At 12:14, Parker Kelly tipped Max Martin’s wrist shot from the point past Myskiw to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead on the powerplay; team captain Curtis Miske also assisted.
The game was a special one for the twenty-year-old captain – it marked his 200th WHL game since joining the league with the Spokane Chiefs in the 2014-15 season.
“It’s still as fun as it was my first game. It’s a tremendous honour to be in the league this long. I just want to keep it going; hopefully I hit 250 down the road,” he said.
While Brandon opted to mostly play the body and use its size to check Prince Albert, the home team used its speed and effective puck movement to maintain its offensive zone pressure.
Still, Scott wasn’t about to take the Wheat Kings’ scoring prowess for granted.
“They got lots of offence on that side. And you can’t be giving them too many good scoring chances, because lots of those guys can bury the puck. So you just gotta keep it tight.”
Going into Friday’s game, the Wheat Kings had six players who’ve scored 10 or more points, three of whom eclipsed 20 points, including Ty Lewis with 30 and Kale Clague with 24.
But Scott and the Raiders kept those two off the score sheet the entire game.
Tanner Kaspick scored the lone goal for his Wheat Kings, unassisted at 11:12 of the second period.
By that point, Prince Albert was up 4-1.
Prior to that, Kelly scored his second goal of the game (and his tenth of the season) on a tic-tac-toe play set up by Stallard at his blue line at 2:05 of the frame.
Stallard fed the puck to Fonstad, who skated it into the Wheat Kings’ zone on Myskiw’s left side.
Once at the faceoff dot, Fonstad backhanded his pass to a wide-open Kelly in the slot. The 18-year-old wristed it into the back of the net, glove side on the netminder.
Stallard, Fonstad and Parker combined for six points on the night. That line leads its team with 56 combined points this season.
Devon Skoleski finished off the scoring for the Raiders: At 10:05 in the period he batted the puck out of the air and into Brandon’s net, waiting on Myskiw’s left doorstep.
The remainder of the period was a tough one for the Raiders; Brandon fired 20 shots on Scott.
Head coach Marc Habscheid said he thought his team cheated a little bit in the second period, but overall he liked its play.
The third period was a scoreless draw in which each team fired seven shots on the opposing goalie.
The Wheat Kings’ physical strategy continued for the remainder of the game.
“(Brandon) plays how they play. We’re not the biggest team, but we’re a pretty scrappy team and we’ll play whatever way we must to win. We like playing fast, and part of that is being competitive and quick,” Habscheid said.
According to Miske, the night’s win was indicative of an overall confidence boost on the team after it had come up short in three close overtime losses in mid-October.
“I think it’s just the belief factor. In those games, we were losing close ones. But now we’re thinking we got that confidence, that little bit of extra swagger. And we’re showing it on the ice out there and we’re taking it to some pretty good teams.”
“We just gotta keep building on that, and I think we can compete with anyone in the league.”
The Raiders remain in fifth place in the WHL’s East division, with a record of 6-4-3-0, three points back of Regina (18) and four points back of Brandon (19).
Their next game is on the road in Moose Jaw on Nov. 2. They return home to face the Swift Current Broncos on Nov. 3. Moose Jaw visits P.A. on Nov. 4. Game time for all contests is 7 p.m.