No matter the frequency or amount of their offensive firepower, the Prince Albert Raiders couldn’t quite solve Jordan Hollett.
The Medicine Hat Tigers goalie backstopped his side to a 49-save, 5-4 shootout win in P.A. Wednesday night in Western Hockey League action from the city’s Art Hauser Centre.
Through three periods and overtime, the Raiders fired 53 shots on the 18-year-old goalie, who had a career night with the win: That shot count is the highest he’s faced through his four-year WHL career.
“They’re a very hard-working team,” Hollett said of the Raiders. “We know that they’re going to come out hard – they have a hard forechck; so you need to make sure that you’re making the right plays, or they’re going to burn you.”
Much like their game the night prior in Swift Current, the Raiders upped their tempo, forechecking pressure and offensive chances as the game wore on, culminating in a 22-shot third period against Medicine Hat.
“Tonight they threw a lot of pucks at the net. They were very good at getting traffic to the net. They also have a couple guys who can rip the puck pretty good.”
Two of those players were centreman Jordy Stallard and defenceman Vojtech Budik, each of whom found second-period success against Hollett to keep the Raiders in the game.
Stallard’s wrist shot at 9:23 was one of his two goals in the game that beat Hollett, while Budik’s 19:37 wrist shot from the point whizzed through traffic and bounced off the goalpost into the Tigers’ net.
At that point it was 3-2 for the Raiders, who had twice erased one-goal deficits in the period, taking the lead for the first time in the game on Budik’s score.
“For the most part of the second and the third period, I thought we dominated the game,” Stallard said.
The Tigers again forced the home team into a comeback scenario, after third period goals from David Quenneville and Mark Rassell, with Rassell’s 8:28 score putting his team up 4-3.
Soon after, the Raiders got some help from their depth players: Fourth line centreman Eric Pearce tipped in an Austin Crossley point shot at 13:02 to tie the game 4-4. Brett Leason was also credited with the assist.
“We got a great group of guys. We know that if we have a poor period or a poor ten minutes, we always bounce back, and I think that’s a good identity to have,” Stallard said of his team’s resiliency.
The two teams finished regulation play drawn even at 4-4.
The overtime portion was no less tense, with the shot count 5-4 in the Tigers’ favour. Each team created odd-man rushes only to be foiled by the opposition’s netminder.
The Raiders’ Ian Scott turned aside 33 of 37 Tigers shots in the losing effort (shootout notwithstanding).
Hollett turned aside Stallard and Raiders captain Curtis Miske in the shootout, while Rassell and Max Gerlach each scored in the shootout to win it 2-0, and thus the game 5-4, for the Tigers.
Talking about his team’s comfort-level in tight, high-pressure scenarios like Wednesday’s contest, Stallard said, “We rise to the occasion. I think we’ve gotta focus more on playing consistent on a night-in, night-out kind of thing. But definitely against the top teams in the league, we do bring our A-game.”
For his part, Hollett said breaking the game down play-by-play is the best way to stay focused, especially in tense, fast-paced contests.
“Just everything that happens previously in the game, you just forget about, and you honestly just work on ‘what do I need to do to make the next save?'” he said. That mean’s “you just stay present and focus on what’s going on in the moment.”
NOTES: The Raiders (11-11-5-2) remain in fifth place in the WHL’s East division, three points back of the fourth-place Regina Pats … Among all 22 WHL teams, the Raiders have gained the most points from overtime or shootout losses (7) … The Raiders next play at home on Friday night against the Kamloops Blazers (13-15-0-0) at 7 p.m. … The game will be the team’s annual teddy bear toss game.