After suffering their only loss of the season to them last weekend, the Prince Albert Raiders were eager for a second chance to face the Red Deer Rebels.
Although a late third period flurry by the visitors gave them the shots on goal advantage, the Raiders relied on a two-point night from Brett Leason and great goaltending from Ian Scott to earn a 2-1 win over the Rebels at the Art Hauser Centre Saturday.
“We’re happy with the win for sure, but it wasn’t our typical game as we can play faster than that,” Marc Habscheid said.
“The bounces weren’t going our way so it was one of those nights where things aren’t going perfectly or they don’t come easy. Our guys were able to buckle down and do what they needed to in order to get the win.”
In addition to being outshot for the first time all season, Saturday’s contest had a different feel compared to the other games the Raiders have played this year as it took them a bit to get going.
“Red Deer is a good team that takes away chances in the neutral zone and you have to respect what the opposition is doing,” Habscheid said.
“However, this was one of those games where the puck was bouncing in the opposite direction early or it would hit a stick and go the other way. We were off a little bit there tonight, but in the end we won the game.”
Leason played a key role in helping his team move to 9-1 on the season, as he helped set up Sean Montgomery’s first period goal and gave his team the lead with 15 minutes to go in regulation.
After dumping the puck off the end boards, Leason was the recipient of a fortuitous bounce and fired a shot through the five-hole of Rebels netminder Ethan Anders.
“I remember Coach (Habscheid) talking about taking advantage of bad gaps and I figured it was the time to use that advice,” Leason said. “I had never practiced that before, so it worked out pretty well for my first time trying it.”
The 19-year-old Calgary product increased his WHL best point streak to 10 games Saturday and is now three markers back of Portland’s Joachim Blichfeld for the league scoring lead.
“I’m pretty sure this is the best run that I’ve ever been on,” Leason said.
“My linemates (Montgomery and Aliaksei Protas) and I are really clicking right now and we are generating lots of chances. We’re doing different things each game and I think it just comes down to that.”
Scott was sublime yet again Saturday as he turned aside 28 shots to improve his record to 8-1 and cut down his goals against average to a dazzling 1.56 mark.
“Ian wasn’t happy with how things went against Red Deer last week as he wanted a couple of those goals that he gave up back,” Habscheid said.
“You could tell that he wanted to come out and make the key saves for us, which he did tonight and on Monday in Calgary.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect also has a .944 save percentage, which is the best mark among starting netminders in the league.
Rebels captain Reese Johnson had the lone goal for his team, who have dropped two straight contests and have a 5-3-1-0 record to sit in a three way tie for first place in the Central Division with the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“It was definitely a tough loss,” Johnson said. “I think we competed hard, which is what we want do every night, and you have to take the positives out of a game like this as we move forward to facing Edmonton next Friday.”
Anders, who is from Pilot Butte, had an excellent outing in goal for the Rebels as he made 25 saves.
Next up for the East Division leading Raiders is a trip to SaskTel Centre Sunday to take on the 7-2 Saskatoon Blades at 2 p.m.
They will return to the Art Hauser Centre Tuesday for a date with the 1-5-1-0 Calgary Hitmen.
Leason, who has seven goals and 12 assists during his 10-game point streak, has now matched the run that Simon Stransky went on to open the 2015-16 season.
The longest run a Raiders player has had to start a year was a 12-game streak that Milan Kraft had during the 1999-00 campaign.
The WHL website does not have stats on streaks that may have occurred prior to the 1996-97 season.
Thanks to an assist on Montgomery’s first period goal, Protas now leads all rookies in the league for points with eight.
Simon Kubicek (Seattle), Oleg Zaytsev (Red Deer), Andrej Kukuca (Seattle), Vladimir Alistrov (Edmonton) and Jake Neighbours (Edmonton) are all one point behind the Belarussian forward.
Jakob Brook returned to the Raiders lineup Saturday, after being sidelined since a home game against the Saskatoon Blades on Sunday, Sept. 30 with an upper body injury.
Overage forward Kody McDonald, who is expected to be out for four to six weeks with a lower body injury, and defenceman Lane Kirk did not dress for the hosts.
Defenceman Carson Sass was not in the lineup for the Rebels, along with forwards Dallon Mellin and Austen Schellenberg.
- Swift Current 3 Brandon 2 (Max Patterson Shootout Winner – Joel Hofer – 53 Saves)
- Moose Jaw 4 Spokane 3 (Daemon Hunt – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Prince George 6 Lethbridge 5 (Cole Moberg Shootout Winner – Josh Curtis – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Medicine Hat 4 Kootenay 3 (Ryan Jevne Shootout Winner – Tyler Preziuso – Three Assists)
- Tri-City 5 Kelowna 4 (Isaac Johnson – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Seattle 7 Edmonton 3 (Jake Lee – Four Assists)
- Victoria 3 Vancouver 2 (Kaid Oliver Overtime Winner – Also Had Two Goals and One Assist)
- Everett 7 Kamloops 2 (Riley Sutter – Two Goals and One Assist)
Around The WHL
Thanks to their overtime triumph over the Vancouver Giants, the Victoria Royals have improved to 7-0 and are the last unbeaten team in the Canadian Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s win for the Swift Current Broncos leaves the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds as the only winless team in major junior hockey with a 0-9 record.
Their head coach Ryan Oulahen stepped down from his role Friday due to personal and family reasons.
Gary Haden, a third year forward with the Medicine Hat Tigers, is no longer a member of their roster.
According to Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News, Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston plans to address his absence Monday.
The 19-year-old from Airdrie, Alta. had a goal and two assists in nine games this year and was coming off of a 42-point campaign last season.
The SaskTel Centre has been a house of horrors for the Raiders in recent years, as they’ve lost their last 15 games in Saskatoon in a streak that dates back to Sept. 20, 2014.
In their previous meeting on Sept. 30 at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders scored three goals in a franchise record 16-second span on their way to a 4-1 victory.
The Blades enter Sunday’s affair on a four-game win streak, with their latest triumph coming by a score of 3-2 Friday in overtime against the Red Deer Rebels.
Saskatoon is currently without the services of defenceman Seth Bafaro and forward Kyle Crnkovic due to injuries.
- Regina vs. Calgary – 2 p.m.
- Prince George vs. Kootenay – 4 p.m.
- Vancouver vs. Victoria – 4 p.m.
- Everett vs. Portland – 6 p.m.