Powered by a multi-point night from rookie Justin Nachbaur and their top line, the Prince Albert Raiders beat the Kootenay Ice 5-3 on the road Friday in Western Hockey League action.
The game was the Raiders’ first of a six-game road trip through British Columbia and the United States; they’ll play six games over nine days, ending on Nov. 18.
Nachbaur, who scored his first WHL goal a week ago against Swift Current, set the tone early in the game by scoring two first-period goals within five minutes of each other.
That put his team up 3-0 after little more than 13 minutes of play.
By the period’s end, the Raiders were up 4-0.
Their four goals on six shots prompted Kootenay head coach James Patrick to pull goalie Bailey Brkin and replace him with Duncan McGovern to start the second period.
“It was a funny game,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.
“All of our shots and chances seemed to find the net in the first period. Then they came back with a push (in the second period), and we took a couple penalties that weren’t great. They made it interesting.”
Midway through the second period, Kootenay came within two scores, thanks to goals from Dallas Hines at 9:42 and Alec Baer at 11:44.
Just over a minute later, Spencer Moe killed Kootenay’s momentum after he knocked the puck past McGovern to restore the three-goal lead.
“I thought the TSN turning point, so to speak, was Moe’s goal. That kind of put them back a bit.”
It wasn’t without some controversy for the Ice’s supporters.
Moe pushed the puck past the Ice goalie after he’d been hauled down and pushed into the net by a Kootenay defender.
“That was a good goal; it was the right call,” Habscheid said.
Nachbaur’s three-point night (two goals and one assist) earned him the game’s first star.
After scoring no points through all of October, through four games this month he’s notched three goals and one assist.
“He’s just got a ton of potential,” according to Habschied. “He’s getting better every game. That second goal he scored was as good a wrist shot as I’ve seen at any level, and that includes the National Hockey League.”
The 17-year-old Manitoban has found recent success since he started playing on the Raider’s third line with Moe and the recently-acquired Brett Leason.
He chalked up his success to his new linemates.
“They’re making it very easy to play with. Obviously we’re clicking right now,” he said.
“Leason’s a playmaker. He’s a big guy; he can shoot and pass. Moe is a little guy; he’s real quick and he likes to shoot.”
That makes it easier for him to drive the net, jump on loose rebounds and tap the puck in, he said.
Prince Albert also had goals from Sean Montgomery and Cole Fonstad.
Fonstad’s goal, along with two assists from Jordy Stallard and one assist from Parker Kelly, gave the Raiders’ top-line forwards a combined four-point night.
They lead their team in scoring with 69 combined points.
The Raiders (8-6-3-0) will travel to Portland to play the Winterhawks (12-4-0-0) on Sunday evening.