Resilient Raiders best Blazers 6-5

Prince Albert Raiders forward Devon Skoleski (28) scores a second-period goal against Kamloops Blazers goalie Dylan Ferguson (31) during their Dec. 8, 2017 WHL game from Prince Albert, Sask. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders did it again, with a slight difference: They won.

For the sixth time in eight games, the Western Hockey League team erased multiple, regulation-time deficits to force extra play, this time against the Kamloops Blazers.

But on Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders emerged victorious, thanks to Cole Fonstad’s backhand, shootout goalĀ that ended the game at 6-5 in his team’s favour.

Going back two weeks to Nov. 24 against Swift Current, the Raiders have forced their opponents into two overtime and four shootout scenarios. The team won two (Friday’s game and a shootout in Moose Jaw) and lost four of those games.

Raiders captain Curtis Miske emphasized his teammates’ resiliency on Friday.

“We were down a couple goals, and we just didn’t give up. It’s a huge two points for us. It’s really nice to get that one in (extra time); I know we’ve been losing a couple of those. It’s a good feather in our cap.”

There were times during the game when it looked like the Blazers sealed the win and were pulling away.

Kamloops Blazers forward Brodi Stuart celebrates with his teammates after scoring a second period goal against the Prince Albert Raiders during their Dec. 8, 2017 WHL game from Prince Albert, Sask. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

After starting the third period with a one-goal lead at 3-2, Kamloops forward Garrett Pilon quieted the building at 8:41 with a quick, forehand goal on goalie Ian Scott.

Not to be outdone, Raiders centreman Jordy Stallard swung momentum back to his team, a mere eight seconds later.

In tight against Blazers goalie Dylan Ferguson, Stallard forced Ferguson down with a fake forehand shot; he then quickly moved the puck around the over-committed Ferguson and slipped it into his open net.

4-3 for Kamloops.

“That was big, because (Kamloops) had sucked the life out of the building, and then they got that goal,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“And it was important to get that, just to get the guys engaged, because up until that point, we didn’t have anything on them. We weren’t even close to generating any offence.”

Less than two minutes later, Miske provided the equalizer by tipping in a Vojtech Budik point shot.

The Blazers again forced the Raiders into a comeback scenario after rookie Connor Zary put his team up 5-4.

With less than three minutes in the game, Stallard’s linemate, Cole Fonstad fired a laser wrist shot past Ferguson’s glove to tie the game at 5-5.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Cole Fonstad (24) shoots on Kamloops Blazers goalie Dylan Ferguson (31) during their Dec. 8, 2017 WHL game from Prince Albert, Sask. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Such a scenario was nothing new for the Raiders, according to Miske. “I think it just comes from past experiences – we’ve been down by one goal or we lose it late in the game. We all just grabbed a little bit of defence there and it worked out for us in the end.”

Staying calm also had something to do with it.

“We kind of all talk on the bench; we just communicate. Nobody gets too high or too low; we just maintain that even keel. Just keep sticking to the system and the process and it’ll keep working for us.”

The Blazers and the Raiders finished the overtime period drawn at 5-5, prompting a shootout.

Slotted as the second shooter, Fonstad’s patience paid off: After switching to his backhand while in tight against Ferguson, the 17-year-old slid the puck through Ferguson’s five-hole and past the goal line as he moved left in the crease.

Fonstad’s second score was the only one of the shootout period, which won it for the Raiders.

“This time it went our way. I thought it was a pretty even game,” Habscheid said. “(Kamloops) plays really structured and I thought they played a good game.

“We found a way to win and we needed a win like that, whether it be in overtime or a shootout. We’ve had a lot of one-point games, but it was nice to get a two-point game.”

Prince Albert Raiders forward Sean Montgomery (25) jumps as he tries to tip in the puck from a point shot against the Kamloops Blazers during their Dec. 8, 2017 WHL game from Prince Albert, Sask. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Doing so against a team like the Don Hay-coached Blazers was all the more important, given the type of play Hay’s teams are known for, according to Habscheid.

“They play a real north-south game, and they play a heavy game. They go to the net and they never cheat you; they always play a good, honest game.

“When it was 4-2, I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope, because his teams usually can buckle down and hold those leads. And up until that point (Stallard’s goal), we didn’t generate much.”

NOTES: Miske also scored his team’s first goal of the game, prompting fans and attendees to throw stuffed animals and teddy bears onto the ice, as part of the Raiders’ teddy bear toss event; the bears and animals will be donated by the team to local causes for Christmas … Miske’s linemate, Devon Skoleski, scored the Raiders’ other goal of the game, at 10:23 of the second period … The Raiders (12-11-5-2) next play on the road in Saskatoon against the Blades (11-15-2-1) on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Prior to that, the Blades will host the Blazers Saturday evening.

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