The Raiders keep on rolling.
The Prince Albert club earned its eighth-straight win Friday, beating the Moose Jaw Warriors 6-4 in Western Hockey League action.
In doing so, the Raiders stopped the Moose Jaw club from getting its 50th regular season win of the year, a feat that the Warriors have never accomplished. (They remain at 49 wins on the season, which stands as a team record.)
Meanwhile, P.A. clinched its 31st win of the season, 10 more than what the team had all of last season.
To get there, the Raiders never trailed in the game, constantly keeping the Warriors in a comeback-position. They also used heavy forechecking and strong, physical play to keep Moose Jaw’s speedy passers and puck-movers in check.
“We’re just believing. We’ve got a good thing rolling,” Raiders captain Curtis Miske said of his team’s winning streak and its Friday night win. “Everybody’s doing their job, and we’ve got scoring from different guys, and our top-six is scoring lots, too. We’re just having fun, and it’s all about that belief factor.”
“We’re not so much looking to chase from behind now. We’re in the position where we’ve got to keep rolling with it. So we’re pretty happy right now,” he said.
Friday’s game had that feel on both fronts.
Unlike certain games earlier this year, when the team looked unsure if it wanted to finish off an opponent, against the Warriors, the Raiders never quit.
After 25 minutes of play, P.A. was up 2-0 on Moose Jaw, thanks to goals from Cole Fonstad and Kody McDonald. Three minutes later, Branden Klatt put Moose Jaw on the score board at 8:13 of the second period.
Rather than taking a cautious approach, the Raiders dug in their heels and kept pressing for a third score, powered by McDonald, his line-mate Parker Kelly and Fonstad.
Less than two minutes later, they were rewarded.
After creating a turnover in the neutral zone, McDonald chipped the puck over to Kelly, who carried it into Moose Jaw’s zone against a lone Warriors defenceman; McDonald was on his teammate’s right side.
Kelly waited until the last second to send a saucer pass over the defender’s stick to McDonald, who roofed the puck on goalie Adam Evanoff using a quick forehand shot.
“I think that 3-1 goal really helped,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said, pointing to the sore as a key momentum-changer for his team. “It was 2-1, and we were on our heels a little bit, then we got that 3-1 goal, then we got our legs again.
“After that, I thought we were pretty good. I didn’t think we were in danger of losing the game after that,” he said.
P.A. kept poring it on. Jordy Stallard notched a power play score three minutes later at 13:29. And to round out the period – after Warriors speedster Jayden Halbgewachs scored on a jaw-dropping, breakaway deke move – Miske put the Raiders up 5-2.
Miske scored his team’s sixth and final goal early in the third period while short-handed. While Moose Jaw did make it interesting with its third and fourth goals from Justin Almeida and Halbgewachs, the Warriors couldn’t contend with P.A.’s hard checking and stingy forechecking.
They ultimately fell short in completing the comeback.
Not to be overlooked as well was the impact of the 2,200-plus fans in attendance; their boisterous noise helped fuel the Raiders, according to Miske and McDonald.
“Every time when we go into the intermission, we actually have a talk about it,” McDonald said. “Because we love the atmosphere. Every time we score a goal, the fans are going – it’s good and helps us keep going after a goal and not deflate or have a bad shift.
“We want to keep going and keep the fans coming back,” he said.
The team will hope that’s the case Saturday night as it continues making a push for the WHL’s postseason.
The Raiders (31-25-9-2) remain in fifth spot in the league’s East Divsion, good enough for the East Conference’s second and final wildcard playoff spot. They host the Calgary Hitmen (21-36-8-2) at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday.
The Hitmen beat the Saskatoon Blades 5-4 in overtime Friday night. With the lone point gained from the loss, the Blades sit in sixth spot in the division, five points back of the Raiders and currently out of a playoff spot.