It’s been a long time since Jordy Stallard found himself that wide open in front of the net, but the Raider assistant captain isn’t complaining.
Stallard’s goal with a mere 1:18 left to play in the third period gave the Prince Albert Raiders a 4-3 victory over a resilient Kootenay Ice squad on Friday. The late winner, off a feed from Cole Fonstad, was an appropriate end to a game characterized by risky plays and defensive miscues.
Afterwards, Stallard said the 2-on-0 with Fonstad was an unexpected, but welcome, turn of events.
“We both made eye contact and we were like,’ what’s going on?’” Stallard chuckled. “It happens like that sometimes. I’m just thankful we could get the win.”
Relief was the most common theme after the Ice gave the home side all they could handle by battling back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits.
Stallard said they’ll take the victory, but stressed that the Raiders need to be better down the stretch.
“Any two points we can get right now is huge, but it definitely wasn’t a solid game by us,” he said. “It was an ugly one, but we found a way to win and that’s all that matters.”
Those sentiments extended to Raiders coach Marc Habscheid, who also expressed a mixture of happiness and frustration following the game. The Raider bench boss praised his team for their aggressive play during the opening minutes of the first period, but emphasized the need for more consistent play.
“It’s a winning business and it’s about getting points, but I’d say we escaped that game with the win,” he said afterwards. “It wasn’t the type of game we’ve been playing lately.”
Wednesday’s contest didn’t look like it would turn into a cagey one-goal affair early on. The Raiders came roaring out of the gate, outshooting the visitors 6-0 and taking an early 1-0 lead on Stallard’s first of the night from Regan Nagy and Curtis Miske.
The Raiders later extended their lead on the power play, when Miske fired home a quick one-timer on a lovely cross-ice pass from Vojtech Budik.
However, the jubilation was short lived.
A Raider turnover just inside the Kootenay blueline gave Ice forward Cameron Hausinger a breakaway just seconds later. Hausinger’s shot beat Raider netminder Ian Scott glove side to make it 2-1.
The Ice then tied things up in the second, when Sebastian Streu beat a sprawling Scott following a blocked pass attempt on a 2-on-1.
Spencer Moe restored the Raider lead in the third, when he slammed a rebound past Ice goalie Duncan McGovern during a hectic goalmouth scramble. The goal gave Prince Albert a 3-2 lead heading into the third, but Alec Baer’s tally at 8:04 tied the score back up.
“I give Kootenay credit. I thought through the first two periods, for the most part, we were better, but I thought in the third they were much better than us,” Habscheid said. “ We made some risky plays, (some) not good decisions, but like I said, it’s about winning and we found the resiliency.”
In total, Kootenay outshot Prince Albert 9-3 in the final period, but were unable to solve Scott, who made a number of key saves to keep the game tied.
That set the stage for Stallard and Fonstad, who found themselves in all alone behind the Ice defence late in the game.
“Fonny kind of faked out their whole team there and it seemed like we had a 2-on-0,” Stallard said. “He just made a great pass over to me and I was able to find the net.”
Scott made 20 saves in a winning effort for Prince Albert, while McGovern made 30 stops in a losing cause.
The win gives Prince Albert a 22-20-9-2 record on the year, and helps them keep pace with the Saskatoon Blades, who beat Kootenay 5-3 on Tuesday. The Blades are Raiders are tied for the last playoff spot with 55 points each.
The loss means Kootenay’s record falls to 23-28-3-0. They currently sit six points up on the Red Deer Rebels for the Central Division’s third seed.
The Raiders are back in action on Friday when they travel to Swift Current to take on the Broncos. Puck drop is 7 p.m. The Raiders then take on the Blades in Saskatoon on Saturday before taking on the Broncos in Prince Albert on Sunday.