With three wins in as many games to start the 2018-19 Western Hockey League season, one might expect that things have gone according to plan for the Prince Albert Raiders.
That wasn’t quite the case Friday at the Art Hauser Centre, as the Raiders withstood a late rally from the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers on their way to a 5-3 triumph.
“We started to get a little sloppy after going up 3-0,” Raiders forward and assistant captain Sean Montgomery said. “As a result, they were able to get some chances and started to build off that.
“We kind of lost momentum there at the end so that’s something we’ll have to clean up for our next game. It’s a good learning experience though and a win’s a win.”
The Tigers had clawed to within a goal when Montgomery scored on a shorthanded breakaway with 4:21 left on the clock to give the hosts a 4-2 lead.
Henrik Rybinski answered back on the power play for the visitors with two minutes left, but Justin Nachbaur would end any comeback attempts with an empty net goal with 41.7 seconds to go.
“We played the right way for about half the game and we dominated them quite a bit,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “It’s human nature though to try and do things the easy way and attempt to accomplish the same thing.
“They put a good scare into us at the end. We took some penalties and they took advantage of their opportunities. It wasn’t a perfect game, but I’ve learned along the way to never critique a win.”
Brett Leason finished out the night with three assists for the Raiders to lead the way on offence, while Cole Fonstad and Montgomery had a goal and an assist each.
Nachbaur and Ozzy Wiesblatt also scored in the victory, which saw Jakob Brook earn his first career WHL assist.
Ian Scott made 35 saves to improve to 3-0 for the season.
While the Raiders are red hot, the Tigers find themselves in a slump as Friday’s setback was their third straight after opening up the year with a win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes last week.
“We have to get back to our hard working identity and structure to lead the way for us,” Tigers forward and assistant captain Ryan Chyzowski said.
“We took too many penalties tonight and it really ruined the flow of our game. It took us until the third period before we got going and it’s hard to win games when you are trying to catch up.”
Tyler Preziuso and Rybinski had a goal and an assist each for the 1-3 Tigers, while Chyzowski also lit the lamp.
Jordan Hollett turned aside 39 shots in the loss, with his best save coming in the first period as he came across the crease and flashed the leather to rob Spencer Moe of a power play goal.
The Raiders will look to continue their winning ways Saturday at Mosaic Place against the 0-2 Moose Jaw Warriors before hosting the Saskatoon Blades at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will attempt to get back on track Saturday as they visit the 2-0 Blades.
The last strong start for the Raiders came in the 2013-14 campaign when they opened up the season with five wins
They ended up with a 35-32-3-2 mark that year and advanced to the playoffs by winning a tiebreaker game over the Red Deer Rebels before being swept by the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Former Raider blueliner Darren Van Impe was in attendance Friday night to watch his son Eric suit up on the Tigers defence.
The younger Van Impe, who was a second round pick by the Spokane Chiefs in 2016 and was acquired by the Tigers in a trade last year, recorded his first career WHL goal Wednesday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Defencemen Konrad Belcourt and Liam Kirk were both scratches for the Raiders Friday as was forward Nikita Krivokrasov.
Blueliners Dylan MacPherson and Ryan Watson did not dress for the Tigers, along with forwards Baxter Anderson and Corson Hopwo.
- Lethbridge 8 Regina 4 (Dylan Cozens – Three Goals and One Assist)
- Edmonton 5 Swift Current 0 (Vince Loschiavo – Two Goals and One Assist – Boston Bilous – 15 Save Shutout)
- Red Deer 4 Calgary 3 (Brandon Hagel – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Prince George 3 Kelowna 2 (Taylor Gauthier – 19 Saves)
- Spokane 7 Kootenay 4 (Jake McGrew – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Victoria 3 Kamloops 2 (Griffen Outhouse – 36 Saves)
- Tri-City 6 Portland 5 (Nolan Yaremko SO Winner – Cody Glass – Three Assists)
- Seattle 3 Vancouver 1 (Liam Hughes – 31 Saves)
Saturday’s matchup between the Raiders and the Warriors is the first since Moose Jaw won a seven-game thriller in the opening round of the 2018 WHL playoffs.
The Warriors are coming off of two straight losses to the Brandon Wheat Kings last weekend to start off the 2018-19 season.
Blueliners Drae Gardiner, Brenden Kwiatkowski and Jett Woo are on the injured list according to the WHL’s weekly report, while overage defender Brandon Schuldhaus is serving the final game of a three-game suspension for a match penalty he took in the seventh game of the Warriors quarter-final matchup with the Swift Current Broncos.
- Lethbridge vs. Brandon – 6:30 p.m.
- Medicine Hat vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
- Edmonton vs. Calgary – 7 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Red Deer – 7 p.m.
- Seattle vs. Portland – 7 p.m.
- Kelowna vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
- Kootenay vs. Spokane – 8:05 p.m.
- Everett vs. Tri-City – 8:05 p.m.
- Kamloops vs. Victoria – 8:05 p.m.