The penalty killers were the difference as the Prince Albert Raiders downed the Red Deer Rebels 3-2 on Friday.
Despite giving the hometown Rebels eight chances on the power play, Prince Albert’s penalty killing unit only surrendering one goal, allowing the Raiders to pull within four points of Saskatoon for the final Eastern Conference wildcard spot.
After the game, Raiders coach Marc Habscheid praised his team for their ability to dig themselves out of trouble.
“Obviously our penalty killing unit was the difference tonight,” he said. “It was on point. We took too many penalties. Some of those penalties I wasn’t too sure of, but all in all, I thought the guys did a good job of killing them when they needed to.”
The Raiders came out flying and were rewarded less than a minute in. Fans were still nestling back into their seats when Kody McDonald tallied his 31st goal of the year a mere 14 seconds into the opening frame.
Jordy Stallard added to that lead with three minutes to go in the first period, when he whacked in a rebound following a Zach Hayes point shot to make it 2-0.
Habscheid said it was encouraging to see the Raiders set the tone so early in the contest.
“I thought our energy was good early and getting that goal on that first shift gave us a little bit of extra momentum,” he said. “It was good to get out to that start.”
However the Rebels quickly turned the tables in the second. Alex Morozoff, scored his fifth of the season to make it 2-1, and then a Josh Tarzwell shot took a few strange deflections before bouncing into the Raider goal to knot the game up at two.
The game seemed destined to head into the third period tied, but Brett Leason fired the eventual game winner past a screened Rebel netminder with 44 seconds left in the period.
Prince Albert Raiders goalie Ian Scott slammed the door the rest of the way, giving the Raiders a 3-2 victory, and a much needed two points in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Raiders sit four points back of the Saskatoon Blades, who lost 7-5 to the Regina Pats in Saskatoon on Friday.
Prince Albert is back in action on Saturday night in Edmonton against the Oil Kings. Puck drop is 8 p.m. CST.