The Prince Albert Raiders have done something no team in the WHL has accomplished since December: beating the Swift Current Broncos in their own backyard.
The Raiders rallied from a three-goal second period deficit to beat the Broncos 5-4 on Parker Kelly’s shootout winner in front of 2,890 boisterous and unimpressed fans at the Credit Union I-plex.
The victory snapped the Bronco’s 11-game home winning streak, and provided a measure of revenge for a Raider team that hadn’t beat Swift Current since their first meeting of the 2017-18 season.
Despite the late heroics, Raiders coach Marc Habscheid took a grounded approach to Friday’s contest.
“We just want points,” the Raiders bench boss said. “That’s all we’re concerned about. We got the points and we’re happy.”
Although Friday’s game ended on a high note for Prince Albert, it didn’t get off to a great start. The Bronco’s jumped out to a quick 2-0 first period lead on goals from Kaden Elder and Giorgio Estephan before Sergei Sapego broke the ice for the Raiders in the second.
Sapago’s point shot beat a screened Stuart Skinner to cut the lead to 2-1, but the joy was short-lived. Former Raider Matteo Gennaro restored the two-goal lead just a minute and a half later, and chased Prince Albert starter Ian Scott from the net in the process.
The Broncos wasted little time getting to his replacement, Curtis Meger, who was making his first appearance between the pipes since Feb. 17. Giorgio Estephan capitalized on a sloppy Raider breakout a little more than a minute later for his second goal of the game, turning what looked to be a close contest into a potential route.
However the tide turned at the 13:36 mark, when Brayden Pachal fired a wrist shot past Skinner from just inside the circle to make it 4-2 and give the Raiders a bit of life heading into the third.
Vojtech Budik’s power play goal at 16:29 brought the Raiders within one, setting the stage for Jordy Stallard’s game-tying goal with less than a minute left and Meger on the bench.
The late heroics stunned the hometown crowd, but not Habscheid, who said his team deserved their fate.
“We played good the whole game,” he said afterwards. “There was nothing wrong with our game. We played great and we deserved to win.”
After a scoreless overtime period, both teams settled in for the first shootout between the two clubs since Nov. 24. The first four shooters yielded goals from Gennaro and Regan Nagy before Parker Kelly fired a quick wrist shot home to take the lead.
With the game on his stick, Swift Current’s Aleksi Heponiemi failed to stuff the puck past Meger on a deke attempt, giving Prince Albert the win.
Meger punctuated his final shootout save with a short, but well-earned celebration, having stopped 22 of 23 shots in relief, and two of three shooters in the shootout.
“He stopped the ones he should of. That’s all we ask,” Habscheid said of Meger. “He came in and did a good job, and again, it wasn’t anything flashy. He just stopped the ones he should have stopped. He stopped the pucks coming around the boards, which has helped our defenceman. He was engaged in the game. I thought he played great.”
The win gives the Raiders a five-game winning streak, and full possession of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot following a 5-3 Lethbridge Hurricanes win over the Saskatoon Blades on Friday.
Both the Canes and Raiders will try to continue their winning ways when the two Clubs meet at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday. Puck drop is 7 p.m.