Raiders special teams dominate in Brandon

Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Kemp/Brandon Sun Prince Albert Raiders forward Brett Leason fights off Brandon Wheat Kings forward Connor Gutenberg for the puck during a game in Brandon earlier this season.

Ian Scott earned his fourth shutout of the year and Brett Leason expanded his point streak to 21 consecutive game in 6-0 route of Brandon

Special teams made the difference for Prince Albert as they put up six goals on the road in Brandon Saturday night.

The Raiders scored three goals on the powerplay and potted their WHL-best 12th shorthanded marker in the 6-0 victory.

Coming off of a close game at home vs. Tri-City Friday night before jumping on the bus to head to Brandon today, Raiders coach Marc Habscheid was pleased with his team’s play.

“We had a tough day with travel, had a real physical battle last night and a long trip today. The guys played great,” he said.

“I thought we played OK in the second period, and then just had another gear in the third.”

Prince Albert opened the scoring at the 9-minute mark of the first when Sean Montgomery found a rebound on the powerplay and put it home. Sergei Sapego and Noah Gregor earned helpers on the play.

Next up was Carson Miller, who, later in the frame, took a pass from Aliaksei Protas at the top of the faceoff circle and wired it home on a 5-on-3 for his eighth of the season. Max Martin earned the extra assist on the goal.

The Raiders went into the locker room up 2-0 and outshooting their opponents 20-6 after one.

The second was quiet, with neither team finding twine. Prince Albert outshot Brandon 11-8 in the period to extend the shot margin to 31-14.

Prince Albert’s only two non-special teams markers came just 19 seconds apart in the third. About six minutes in, Brayden Pachal found Cole Fonstad, who cut around a defender and went forehand-backhand on Wheat King goalie Jiri Patera, slipping the puck through his five-hole to extend the lead to three. Zach Hayes also earned a point on the play.

The Raiders gained the zone off of the ensuing faceoff, and a Sapego shot bounced off a leg right to the stick of Brett Leason, who had been kept off the scoresheet to that point of the game. Leason snapped a quick shot past Patera to extend the lead to 4-0 and extend his point streak to 21 consecutive games. Kelly also earned an assist on Leason’s 19th of the year.

The Raiders’ potent penalty kill struck next.

With five minutes to go, Gregor stole the puck and fought off a defender before evading a poke-check and tucking the puck in past a sprawling Patera. The goal, Gregor’s tenth of the season, is his third with a man short.

Gregor and Leason are tied for the lead league in shorthanded markers with Red Deer’s Reese Johnson and Edmonton’s Quinn Benjafield. The Prince Albert penalty kill is in first place, killing off 92.7 per cent of penalties against this year, despite averaging 13.2 penalty minutes a game.

With the game out of reach and the clock winding down, Linden McCallum gave the Raiders another chance on the man advantage. Sapego found Leason in the corner. He fed it to Montgomery in front, who buried his own rebound for his second and his team’s sixth of the night.

Frustration seemed to sink in for Brandon. With less than two minutes to go, a scrum broke out in front of Ian Scott, with Prince Albert defenceman Kaiden Guhle right in the centre of it.

Taking on multiple Brandon men, Guhle earned a double minor for roughing. A pair of Wheat Kings also were whistled for roughing minors in the scrum, while Baron Thompson was given the gate with a 10-minute misconduct on the play.

Ian Scott made 26 saves for his league-leading fourth shutout of the year, and his second this week.

In three games, Scott gave up only one goal, and scored one on an empty net from behind his own red line in Friday night’s game. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect leads the league in goals-against average at 1.39 and save percentage at .950.

Habscheid said Scott been “great” as the team has continued to pile up wins, but also had praise for Patera, who kept his side in it early with some big saves.

“Early he was good, it could have gotten away,” Habscheid said. “I thought he made some key saves, especially in the first period.”

Five different Raiders found the back of the net, and 11 names appeared on the score sheet. According to Habscheid, that’s just Raider hockey.

“That’s how we play. We play as a team,” he said.

“Everyone pitches in. Everyone is important, whether you’re playing top minutes, bottom minutes or a healthy scratch, it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s important on this team.”

The win improves Prince Albert to 20-1 on the year, and gives the squad a 13-game win streak.

With the loss, Brandon falls to 10-5-3-3, good for third place in the East Division.

“They’re a good team,” Habscheid said. “Every team we play we have respect for. they’re a good team and a good organization. We just try to play hard against them.”

The Raiders head home Tuesday to take on The Lethbridge Hurricanes at 7 p.m., before taking off on a Central Division road trip that will see them play Medicine Hat, Kootenay, Red Deer and Edmonton before visiting Regina and Swift Current and Brandon.

After Tuesday, the team doesn’t return to the Art Hauser Centre until Dec. 8 for a rematch against the What Kings.

Post-Game Notes

With a goal and an assist Saturday night, Brett Leason extended his point streak to 21 games, tying Mike Comrie for third-longest point streak to start a WHL season since 1996-97. Leason’s 19 goals and 44 points are good for second in the league. Portland’s Joachim Blichfeld has 20 goals, while Trey Fix-Wolansky of Edmonton has 46 points.

Ian Scott sits on top of all goaltending categories in the WHL, leading in GAA, SV% and wins. Among goalies who have played 10 games or more, Scott has the fewest goals allowed with just 25 scored against him in 18 games this season.

Prince Albert players own 10 of the top 12 plus/minus rankings so far this year. Leason leads the team with a +32 ranking, while Cole Fonstad and Spencer Moe have the lowest at +1. No one on the team has a negative plus-minus ranking.

Noah Gregor increased his point streak to six games in Saturday’s win, while Brandon forward Stelio Mattheos saw his six game streak come to an end.

Prince Albert product and Wheat Kings blueliner Braden Schneider left the game during the first period of play and did not return.

Defenceman Lane Kirk and forward Eric Pearce did not dress for the Raiders Saturday, while the hosts scratched forward Ty Thorpe, along with blueliners Sachel Higson and Chad Nychuk.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Saskatoon 5 Tri-City 3 (Kirby Dach – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Medicine Hat 2 Swift Current 0 (Mads Sogaard – 48 Saves – First Career WHL Shutout)
  • Kelowna 3 Edmonton 1 (Nolan Foote – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Moose Jaw 3 Lethbridge 2 (Tristin Langan – Two Goals)
  • Red Deer 5 Kootenay 4 (Reese Johnson Overtime Winner – Three Goals – Second Career WHL Hat Trick)
  • Kamloops 5 Prince George 1 (Jermaine Loewen – Two Goals)
  • Seattle 6 Portland 4 (Matthew Wedman – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Calgary 5 Spokane 1 (Mark Kastelic – Three Goals – First Career WHL Hat Trick)
  • Victoria 2 Regina 1 (Max Paddock – 25 Saves)
  • Everett 6 Vancouver 5 (Connor Dewar – Two Goals and One Assist)

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Kamloops vs. Prince George – 4 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Kootenay – 5 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Vancouver – 6 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Everett – 6 p.m.

– With Files from Lucas Punkari