Raiders skate to gritty win vs. P.G.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Parker Kelly (27) carries the puck through the neutral zone against the Prince George Cougars during the second period of their Jan. 26, 2017 WHL game from P.A. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders used an offensive outburst and the gritty play of forwards Kody McDonald and Sean Montgomery to outplay and outscore the visiting Prince George Cougars 6-2 in Friday night Western Hockey League action.

The game was McDonald’s first against his former team since the Raiders acquired him in a trade with the British Columbia club in early January.

He made it count.

McDonald scored a Gordie Howe hattrick – notching a goal, an assist and a fight – to help power the Raiders to the win.

“It was nice. When I was coming up on that team, it was what I liked to do – fight a little bit, score, pass. It was nice to get that against the old team,” McDonald said after the game.

The 19-year-old Lethbridge, Alta. native played his first three and a half years in the WHL with the Cougars, before he moved to P.A. in exchange for defencemen Rhett Rhinehart and Austin Crossley.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Kody McDonald (28) catches his breath after finishing a fight against Prince George Cougars forward Cam MacPhee during the second period of their Jan. 26, 2017 WHL game from P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

McDonald set the tone early on Friday, scoring the Raiders’ first goal while on the penalty kill at 3:51 of the first period.

After outworking forward Jared Bethune for the puck just inside the Prince George blue line, McDonald skated to the side and the front of goalie Tavin Grant, where he wristed the puck top shelf for the score.

His teammates soon followed suit.

Fellow centreman Jordy Stallard scored at 12:00 of the first period to break a tie and put his team up 2-1; Parker Kelly scored what would be the game-winning goal in the second period, while also restoring his team’s one-goal lead; and in the final period, P.A. poured it on with scores from Curtis Miske, Cole Fonstad and Montgomery.

McDonald assisted on Kelly’s and Fonstad’s goals. He also squared off in a fight against defenceman Cam MacPhee in the second period.

He wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary from playing his former team, but he said that changed as game time crept closer on Friday afternoon.

“I try not to think about it too much, but probably a good half hour before warm-ups, I started thinking about it a lot, and it really got me fired up. I could feel the heart racing,” he said.

Along with McDonald’s hustle, Montgomery was a frequent grinder for the Raiders.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Sean Montgomery (25) carries the puck through the neutral zone against the Prince George Cougars during the second period of their Jan. 26, 2017 WHL game from P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

He was often the first one down the ice on the forecheck, and he was key in setting up Stallard’s goal for the assist. He also notched his team’s final goal in the third period.

“I probably wouldn’t call myself the best points guy on the team, but I think my role is more just working hard and trying to do the right things,” he said.

After carrying the puck into the Cougars’ zone on his right side, Montgomery drifted to the right of the faceoff circle to let his teammates set up in front of him. He waited and fed the puck to a streaking Stallard, who scored on his wrist shot at the top of the circle to beat Grant.

“He’s been good, really, all year. He’s just a quiet guy, who goes about his business,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said of Montgomery. “But he’s a big part of our team. You can put him in any situation, he never complains, he’s just there all the time. He’s Mr. Reliable.”

Overall, Habscheid described the game as one that was a steady incline towards success, period by period.

“It took us a while to get going,” he said. “I thought we generated a lot of zone time early, but we didn’t generate a lot of shots. And then in the second period, I thought we generated a lot of zone time, but we missed the net a lot. In the third, we started to cash in on some of our chances.”

The Raiders (19-20-7-2) next play against the Edmonton Oil Kings (13-28-5-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.

Country Comfort – September