The Prince Albert Raiders proved they have what it takes to compete with one of the best teams in the league friday night as they scored five times and benefitted from a stellar performance in net to take a 1-0 series lead over the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Raiders came into the series as the second wildcard team, while the Warriors finished with the top record in the WHL regular season. Friday night, it was the Raiders who would strike first.
The Raiders’ top goal scorer in the regular season, Jordy Stallard, was the first one to find the back of the net. His shot from the wing squeaked through the pads of Brody Wilms, just sliding past the goal line.
Later in the period, it was Stallard again. Parked in front of the net, he took two wacks at a rebound to pot the puck between the posts to put his team out front 2-0 after one.
The Warriors, though, wouldn’t go down without a fight.
At the 5:53 mark of the second, they cut the lead in half. Brayden Burke found Vince Loschiavo cross-ice, and he made no mistake.
While the goal took the wind out of the Raiders’ sails, the team’s top point-getter from the regular season put life back into the squad. Less than two minutes later after the Warriors goal, Fonstad cut to the centre of the zone and found twine for his first career WHL playoff goal.
He wasn’t done there. Late in the frame, he entered the zone, put the puck through defender Josh Brook’s legs and snapped a shot past Wilms. 4-1 Raiders after two.
“When they got that (first goal) you could tell we kind of sunk on the bench a bit,” Fonstad said afer the game. “But it’s big to come back after they score and get the momentum back. that’s huge and I think that was a big turning point in the game.”
The Raiders continued to pour it on. At the 6:35 mark of the third period, Regan Nagy scored on a two-on-one rush to extend the lead to 5-1. That goal also chased Wilms from the net. He made 17 saves in the loss.
Late in the third, Moose Jaw attempted a late comeback. Tristyn DeRoose and Kale Clague scored to bring the Warriors back within two, but they couldn’t close the four-point gap.
Ian Scott made 35 saves in the victory for his first career playoff win.
“He played unbelievable tonight,” Fonstad said. “He made some saves that were crazy. He’s been great for us all year. He’s an ubelievable goaltender and if we give him any help that’s great.”
Stallard said the Raiders were ready to play.
“We know these guys are a good team, but we played well tonight,” he said.
“At the end of the day that’s just Game 1. We have to start getting ready for Game 2 tomorrow.”
Game 2 gets underway at 7 p.m. Games 3 and 4 will be Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
— With files from Matthew Gourlie.