The Prince Albert Raiders held the lead, and then they backed off.
It wound up costing them Monday night in Western Hockey League action from Regina: The Pats erased a two-goal deficit and edged the Raiders 5-4 in overtime.
Prince Albert defenceman and alternate captain Brayden Pachal was honest in his post-game assessment.
“The reality is for our team we had two goals going into the third (period), and we blew it. We’ve gotta learn how to play with the lead, and that’s how you become a championship team, and we’re not there right now.”
After a tenuous first period from both teams, the Raiders took and held momentum throughout the second period.
Starting with Pachal’s point shot goal on Pats goalie Tyler Brown, the Raiders scored three consecutive goals for a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
It didn’t take long for the Pats to swing momentum back in their favour, starting with defencman Josh Mahura’s solo-effort score in the third period.
The 19-year-old started with the puck at the center line, skated in between two Raiders defenders and then snapped the puck through goalie Curtis Meger’s five-hole in close.
That made the score 3-2 and gave the Pats some life.
“There were a lot of things that went into that. I wouldn’t say it was just me. I think that kind of just got us going a little bit, but there were a lot of other plays leading up to that from our guys,” Mahura said of the play.
“It wasn’t just the guys that got the points. It was guys finishing their checks, and just making the right play.”
Just over two minutes later, the Pats took a 4-3 lead on back-to-back goals ten seconds apart, which prompted Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid to call a timeout for his team at 7:24 of the period.
The pep-talk appeared to work. The Raiders settled down their play and tied the game at 4-4 on Jordy Stallard’s powerplay goal at 13:01.
The two clubs played an evenly-matched remainder of the third period, forcing the extra period of 3-on-3 play.
Prince Albert controlled puck possession for most of overtime.
But a lucky puck bounce at the Pats’ blue line and a converted turnover by Mahura transitioned the play to the Raiders’ end.
Mahura fed the puck to centreman Matt Bradley, who skated in on Meger’s right side. The 20-year-old Surrey, B.C. native snapped the puck through Meger’s five hole for the overtime winner.
“We make mistakes at inopportune, impromptu times, and they end up in our net. And that’s what happens when you go though those funks,” Habscheid said after the game.
Pachal emphasized that his team has to keep pressure on its opponents when it gains leads.
“I think right now we’re backing off when we get the lead. And championship teams don’t do that. When they have the other team on the ropes, they step on their throat. I think we need to learn that if we want to become a championship team,” he said.
Pachal noted the positives his team can build on from this game and their previous two: “We battled really well. We competed and we were in (each) game. I think we could have deserved a better fate in the last three.”
The Raiders (13-17-6-2) are now off for the next three days. They next play against the Kootenay Ice (18-17-3-0) on Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert. Game time is 7 p.m.