A late shorthanded goal and a spectacular shootout winner were enough to propel the red-hot Regina Pats past the Prince Albert Raiders in a game that helped solidify the 2018 playoff picture.
Jesse Gabrielle’s slick fake deke sealed a 3-2 comeback win for the Memorial Cup hosts, who now sit three points up on the Brandon Wheat Kings for third in the WHL’s East Division.
Wednesday’s game was the second straight shootout loss for the Raiders, who are now locked in to a first round match-up with the top-seeded Moose Jaw Warriors. Despite the loss, head coach Marc Habscheid said he was happy with how his team is rounding into form.
“We deserved to win again,” Habscheid said. “We outplayed them and we lost in a skills competition like (Tuesday). I’m happy with our guys. We’re basically undefeated in regulation for 11 games now, so it’s all good.”
The Raiders entered Wednesday’s contest needing a win if they hoped to keep pace with the Wheat Kings and improve their playoff position.
It looked like that might happen when Jordy Stallard opened the scoring on a Curtis Miske feed midway through the first. Stallard’s quick wrist shot beat Regina netminder Max Paddock stick-side and gave Prince Albert an early 1-0 lead.
However, the Pats came roaring back in the second, outshooting Prince Albert 13-6 in the period, and forcing Raider goalie Curtis Meger to make a number of difficult saves.
“He played real good,” Habscheid said. “I’m happy for him, in his home town. We just would have liked to get the win for him.”
Regina captain Sam Steel eventually broke the shutout after he hacked a shot past Meger roughly five minutes into the period. However, the Raiders responded just six minutes later when Regan Nagy converted a cross-ice pass from Parker Kelly on a 2-on-1.
The Raiders seemed poised take control for good midway through the third. Regina defenceman Liam Schioler’s high-sticking penalty opened the door for Prince Albert to extend their lead, but instead it was the home team who took advantage. The Pats had the two best chances of the 5-on-4 situation, with Cameron Hebig eventually tying things up at two and forcing overtime.
“Our guy tried to make a play and (the puck) just hit a stick and turned over and went the other way,” Habscheid said. “It’s nothing you can really do. It happens in hockey…. It’s one of those bounces that just didn’t go our way.”
Both teams failed to score in overtime, setting the scene for Jesse Gabrielle’s heroics. He was the only shooter on either side to score.
The loss leaves Prince Albert with a 32-25-9-4 record heading into the final weekend of the regular season. They’ll close things out with a home-and-home series against the Saskatoon Blades.
The first game takes place on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.