For the first time since 2014, the Prince Albert Raiders are undefeated after the WHL’s opening weekend.
Cole Fonstad had two goals and Ian Scott turned aside 27 shots as the Raiders downed the Regina Pats 3-1 to sweep the home-and-home series.
Brett Leason had the other goal for the Raiders, who gave up a first period lead, but overwhelmed the Pats as the game wore on.
“We’re happy with it obviously but we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Raiders coach Marc Habscheid said afterwards. “We consider ourselves confident, but we’re not arrogant. We’re 2-0. That’s great. But there are no trophies for 2-0.”
The Raiders got some good news before the puck even dropped on Saturday. Parker Kelly’s flight touched down in Regina late in the afternoon, allowing him to get to the rink just as warm-ups were about to start. Kelly had been in training camp with the Ottawa Senators, but twin tornados in the nation’s capital delayed his departure.
With Kelly in the line-up, the Raiders looked to pick up where they left off on Friday, but it was déjà vu for the Pats instead.
Aaron Hyman scored Regina’s first goal of the game for the second straight night, cutting in close and firing a quick shot into the top right corner. The Pats led 1-0 at the first intermission, but the Raiders tied things up halfway through the second period.
Fonstad took a cross-crease feed from Spencer Moe and slid it underneath a sprawling Max Paddock, making it 1-1.
The Pats had a chance to retake the lead after Justin Nachbauer received a five minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct following a post-whistle scrum. However, the hosts rarely threatened during the power play, while the Raiders surged.
Habscheid said killing the major off was the key that helped turn the momentum in favour of the Raiders, but he remained unimpressed with the call.
“It wasn’t a cross-check,” he said afterwards. “(Nachbauer) hit him in the chest. We feel confident that nothing should happen…. It was a retaliatory penalty, which shouldn’t happen, but at the same time, the kid snapped his head back. It was not a major.”
The Raiders took the lead for good with less than three minutes to go in the second period. Fonstad added his second of the night, finishing off a crisp passing play from Leason and Kody McDonald.
Prince Albert had a chance to add to their lead when Regina’s Nick Henry went off for holding early in the third. Habscheid said the play was an obvious slew foot on Raiders captain Brayden Pachal, who remained in the game despite crashing into the boards feet first.
“That’s a horrible play,” Habscheid said. “Those are the plays you’re trying to get out of the league. Guys going back and slew footing them, that’s where guys can break their legs and end careers. Hopefully the league will look after that.”
The Raiders were unable to score on that power play, but did light the lamp a few minutes later. Leason scored his second of the season, with assists to Fonstad and Sergei Sapego, giving Prince Albert a 3-1 lead.
That was enough for the victory, and an early share of first place in the WHL’s East Division.
“The positive thing was we didn’t have our ‘A’ game, but we found a way to win,” Habscheid said. “But, we can get better. That’s for sure.”
The Prince Albert Raiders are off until Friday, Sept. 28 when they welcome the Medicine Hat Tigers to the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
Saturday’s road win over the Pats was the first for the Raiders in Regina in seven attempts, as their last triumph came on Sept. 23, 2016.
Goaltender Curtis Meger, defenceman Lane Kirk and forward Nikita Krivokrasov did not dress for the Raiders, while blueliner Konrad Belcourt was a late scratch after Kelly’s arrival in Regina.
Among those not in the Pats lineup were goaltender Kyle Dumba, defencemen Steven Zonneveld, Brady Pouteau and Parker Gavlas, in addition to forwards Carter Massier, Cole Dubinsky and Riley Krane.
Potential Pats overage blueliner Cale Fleury was reassigned by the Montreal Canadiens to their American Hockey League affiliate in Laval, Que. earlier in the day.
After attending the Senators rookie camp earlier this month, former Raiders forward Jordy Stallard is among those trying out for a spot with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate in Belleville, Ont.
- Brandon 4 Moose Jaw 2 (Jiri Patera – 28 Saves)
- Saskatoon 8 Swift Current 0 (Kirby Dach – Three Goals and Two Assists)
- Edmonton 4 Red Deer 1 (Dylan Myskiw – 28 Saves in Oil Kings Debut)
- Kootenay 5 Calgary 3 (Connor McClennon – First Two WHL Goals)
- Seattle 5 Portland 3 (Zack Andrusiak – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Lethbridge 4 Medicine Hat 2 (Reece Klassen – 27 Saves)
- Kamloops 3 Kelowna 1 (Dylan Ferguson – 39 Saves)
- Victoria 5 Prince George 1 (Ralph Jarratt – One Goal and One Assist)
- Vancouver 3 Everett 1 (Dylan Plouffe – Two Assists)
- Tri-City 6 Spokane 1 (Nolan Yaremko – Two Goals and Two Assists)
- Portland vs. Everett – 5:05 p.m.
— With files from Lucas Punkari