Dominant first period propels Raiders past Chiefs

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Zack Hayes celebrates with his Prince Albert Raiders teammates after scoring in the first period of his team's 8-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs Saturday.

A matchup between two of the top teams in the Western Hockey League was decided fairly early Saturday night.

Thanks to a four goal outburst in the first period, the Prince Albert Raiders took control of proceedings at the Art Hauser Centre as they improved their record to 12-1 after an 8-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs.

“I thought our first period was tremendous,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “It was probably one of our best periods of the year.

“We were quick and fast, we were all over them and we were solid in all areas. We took our foot off the gas a little bit after went up 5-0 in the second, which is natural, but to get a win like that against a really good team is something that we’re happy with.”

For the returning players on the Raiders, Saturday’s win was a nice bit of redemption as they dropped a 7-0 affair in their last meeting with the Chiefs in Spokane on Nov. 18, 2017.

“It’s a new year but the feeling of what happened last season is still in the back of our minds,” Raiders forward and assistant captain Sean Montgomery said.

“They embarrassed us a bit there last year and we didn’t really like that a whole lot, so it was nice to get a win this time around.”

Montgomery, who is on a line with Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas, had a goal and two assists for the second straight game to lead the way on offence for the Raiders.

“Brett and I formed a pretty good understanding last year and we’ve just brought that on further this season with Protas joining us,” Montgomery said.

“They move the puck well and they both have good shots. Plus, they are couple of big guys with long sticks, so that doesn’t hurt either.”

Leason had an assist to extend his point streak to 13 straight games and Protas lit the lamp in the first period.

Jakob Brook and Noah Gregor both scored twice in the triumph, while Zack Hayes and Konrad Belcourt also supplied offence from the blueline.

“Brett better watch out, I’m coming for his scoring lead,” Hayes joked after scoring for the second straight game.

“We’re all trying to help out in anyway that we can on the blueline, and that includes secondary offence if our big guys are struggling.”

Rookie blueliner Kaiden Guhle recorded his first assist of the season on one of Brook’s third period markers, while Ian Scott turned aside 32 shots.

The Chiefs, who lost the final two games of their East Division road swing and have a 6-3-3-1 record, were led on offence by defenceman Nolan Reid.

The overager scored a goal from the point in the second period and would later help to set up the first career WHL marker for rookie Erik Atchison.

“We dug ourselves a pretty big hole and it was tough to come back from that, even though we came out flying in the second period and closed the gap a little bit,” Chiefs defenceman and captain Ty Smith said.

“We had some chances, but the Raiders played really well tonight. They are a fast and physical team to play against and they are ranked number one in the country for a reason.”

Dawson Weatherill turned aside 30 shots for the Chiefs in the loss.

Having won five straight games and now boasting a perfect 6-0 home record, the Raiders will now prepare for another US Division opponent Tuesday when the Everett Silvertips come to town for a 7 p.m. matchup.

Post-Game Notes

With his assist on Gregor’s first period power play goal, Leason surpassed the 12-game run that Milan Kraft went on to the start the 1999-00 season for the best streak by a Raiders player to open up a campaign since 1996-97, which is as far back as stats go on the WHL’s website.

The Calgary native leads the WHL in scoring with 27 points, is tied with Stelio Mattheos of the Brandon Wheat Kings for the most goals with 11 and is in a three-way tie with Portland Winterhawks linemates Joachim Blichfeld and Cody Glass for the league lead in assists with 16.

Belcourt, who was called up from the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons earlier this week, scored his first goal in his 24th appearance with the Raiders and also recorded his first point with the team on that play.

Smith saw his nine-game point streak come to an end Saturday, which leaves the nine-game run that Saskatoon Blades defenceman Dawson Davidson is currently on as the second longest streak in the league behind Leason.

Defencemen Lane Kirk and Max Martin did not dress for the Raiders Saturday, in addition to forwards Spencer Moe and Kody McDonald.

The Chiefs, who are currently without forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan as he remains with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, scratched defencemen Luke Gallagher, Matt Leduc and Filip Kral, along with forward Connor Gabruch.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Calgary 4 Brandon 3 (Mark Kastelic Overtime Winner – Two Goals)
  • Moose Jaw 3 Regina 2 (Tristin Langan – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Red Deer 4 Kootenay 3 (Alexander Alexeyev Overtime Winner – Oleg Zaytsev – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Lethbridge 8 Medicine Hat 3 (Ty Kolle – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Tri-City 3 Seattle 2 (Sasha Mutala Overtime Winner – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Portland 2 Vancouver 1 (Brendan De Jong Overtime Winner – Reece Newkirk – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Kelowna 5 Victoria 1 (Liam Kindree – One Goal and One Assist)

Pre-Game Notes

Heading into a Sunday road game with the Regina Pats, the Silvertips have a 6-4 record and are tied with the Tri-City Americans for fourth place in the US Division standings.

The defending Western Conference champions have won their last six meetings against the Raiders, with their most recent triumph coming on Nov. 15, 2017 in Everett when Carter Hart stopped all 25 shots he faced in a 2-0 affair.

Dustin Wolf is off to a strong start in his first full season as a starting netminder for the Silvertips as he has the fourth best goals against average in the WHL with a 2.11 mark.

With forward Sean Richards set to return to the lineup Sunday after serving a five-game suspension for a checking to the head major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit on Seattle’s Reece Harsch on Oct. 5, the Silvertips will now be without forward Connor Dewar for a yet to be determined amount of time.

The Minnesota Wild prospect received a cross checking major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit on Brandon’s Zach Wytnick Friday night.

Forward Luke Ormsby and goaltender Blake Lyda are currently out of the Silvertips lineup due to injuries.

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Swift Current vs. Prince George – 3 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Regina – 4 p.m.
  • Kootenay vs. Edmonton – 4 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Vancouver – 5 p.m.

Tuesday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Red Deer – 7 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
  • Swift Current vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.