The Prince Albert Raiders were just ok.
That was the assessment of the team’s head coach, Marc Habscheid, after his squad skated to a 4-3 overtime loss against the visiting Red Deer Rebels in Western Hockey League action Tuesday night from P.A.
“I thought we needed more guys carrying the lunch pale, so to speak. I thought we just needed to be committed more to do more of the tough jobs, the not-fun jobs. First, on the forecheck, that type of thing. And I didn’t like three of the four goals either,” he said after the game.
Despite playing catch-up for more than three-quarters’ worth of regulation time, the Rebels found a way to win.
They relied on quick, assertive transition play off of turnovers to move the play back to the Raiders’ end, and they gummed up their own blue line when P.A. carried the play into Red Deer’s zone.
The Rebels also benefited from the play of centreman Kristian Reichel. The 19-year-old WHL rookie scored the game-tying goal in the third period and the overtime-winning goal in the extra frame.
His first goal, at 7:43 in the third period, came after goalie Ian Scott and defenceman Zack Hayes fumbled a passing play between the two of them deep in the Raiders’ zone; Scott was partially out of position when Reichel jumped on the lose puck and managed to slide it under the Raiders’ netminder.
For the overtime score, he took the puck at his blue line, skated down the left wing and crossed the Raiders’ blue line for an open path on Scott’s right side. Raiders centreman Jordy Stallard took away any passing lane for Reichel to the middle slot area, which forced him to shoot on Scott from the faceoff circle.
He didn’t miss: His forehand wrist shot beat Scott glove-side for the win.
The two goals, and especially the overtime winner, had personal meaning for him. “It’s for my girlfriend’s uncle, who isn’t good with health. So it’s for him,” he said, adding that both are now staying in his home country, the Czech Republic.
Despite the Rebel’s speed and never-quit demeanour, the Raiders found offensive success in the second and third periods: Justin Nachbaur, Curtis Miske and Eric Pearce all scored for P.A. to give them the lead in the second and third periods.
But Miske said his team has to be better against the Rebels.
“They didn’t quit tonight, even when we had the momentum on them in the first half of the game. We deserved maybe a little better, but we’ve gotta clean up some areas for sure.”
That means “d-zone coverage; they were kind of flying around out there. And just managing the puck a little better. I think they had a lot of high turnovers towards the end of the game at both blue lines,” he said. “If we can manage that, it’s less offence for them.”
With the loss, the Raiders (20-20-8-2) picked up a single point in the WHL’s East Division standings. They’re in sixth spot in the division, three points back of the fifth-place Saskatoon Blades.
P.A. will next play on Fright against the visiting Blades (25-23-2-1) at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.