Budik, Raiders edge Tigers in OT

Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Vojtech Budik (6) carries the puck into the Medicine Hat Tigers' zone during Dec. 2017 WHL action from P.A. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders used stable goaltending, veteran leadership and the hot stick of Vojtech Budik to power past the Medicine Hat Tigers for a 3-2 overtime road win in Western Hockey League Action on Saturday night.

Budik’s overtime, tap-in goal was his third score in two nights; the Czech defenceman notched two scores the night prior for a win in Red Deer.

After the game, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid underscored Budik’s recent confidence since returning from play as a member of the Czech national team at this year’s World Junior Championship tournament.

“He’s just a solid human being, and he has a quiet confidence about him. He’s just a real good player,” Habscheid said.

Budik and teammate Parker Kelly needed exactly one minute to finish the job in extra time.

Kelly chased a loose puck behind the net of Tigers goalie Michael Bullion. He emerged on Bullion’s back, left side with the puck, looking for a pass.

At the same time, Budik floated into the Tigers’ slot area, directly in front of Bullion. Kelly made a quick, tape-to-tape pass, allowing for his defenceman to tap home the winning score on Bullion’s right side.

The goal was Budik’s second overtime winning score this season; his first was on Sept. 29 in a 6-5 win over Calgary in P.A.; he also helped set up Kody McDonald’s overtime-winning goal on Jan. 6 against Red Deer.

“You play at that level and you come back, the game slows down,” Habscheid explained of Budik’s return from the Czech team. “It’s just easier when you come back from an event of that magnitude – he’s playing better.”

The Raiders had to grind out portions of the game to come up with the win, including a five-on-three penalty kill situation with less than eight minutes left in the game. By that point, the Tigers had erased a one-goal deficit and tied the game at 2-2.

Curtis Miske was serving a roughing penalty, when nine seconds later, the officials assessed P.A. a bench minor at 12:27. That created the two-man disadvantage for P.A.

Prince Albert Raiders captain Curtis Miske (18) shoots on the Medicine Hat Tigers’ net during Dec. 2017 WHL action from P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

But thanks to some key saves – and play stoppages – by goalie Ian Scott and some gritty work by Kelly, the Raiders killed off both penalties to keep the game tied.

“They hung in and blocked some shots, and Scott made some saves. We up-ice pressured them pretty well and we killed the clock. So that was a good kill,” Habscheid said.

Overall, his team “found a way to win. So it’s a character win for our guys.”

The Raiders’ veteran players also stepped up: Twenty-year-olds Curtis Miske and Regan Nagy notched the team’s two regulation-time goals. Over their last four games, Miske and Nagy have tallied eight and five points, respectively.

A possible concerning factor for the Raiders going forward is the health status of Nagy. He appeared to injure his ankle in the third period while chasing the puck in the Tigers’ zone.

The team didn’t have an update on his status after the game.

The Raiders (18-20-6-2) remain in sixth spot in the WHL’s East Division. After a 4-3 overtime win by the Saskatoon Blades over the Regina Pats on Saturday night, the Raiders are five points back of the Blades and nine points back of the Pats in the division.

The Raiders round out their Alberta road trip Sunday evening in Calgary against the Hitmen (14-26-5-1). Game time is 5 p.m. CST.