Prince Albert fought from an early one-goal deficit to extend the winning streak to 19
It wasn’t the best game the Prince Albert Raiders have ever played, but the team at the top of the WHL standings pulled it off Saturday night on the road against the Regina Pats.
It was the fourth meeting between the divisional foes this season, and the fourth time Prince Albert came away with the 5-2 victory.
“It wasn’t an easy game,” head coach Marc Habscheid said.
“It seemed like we weren’t as quick, weren’t as precise. We just wanted to get there, and that puck was not a friend of ours tonight.”
Unlike last time, when the Raiders dominated the Pats in the early going of the game and jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, it was Regina who would strike first v.
The Pats came into the zone on a three-on-one. Carter Massier dished the puck from the near faceoff circle off to the trailing man, who passed it right back to Massier. He one-timed it past a sprawling Ian Scott for his first career WHL goal. Marco Creta earned the assist on the play.
Late in the frame, with the man advantage, Prince Albert would respond. A Noah Gregor shot from the point was tipped home by Brett Leason, the WHL’s leading goal scorer, to tie the game at one.
With the goal, Leason extended his season-long point streak to 27 games, equalling point streaks set by Connor McDavid and John Tavares in their CHL careers.
It’s the second longest run in the WHL since 1997-98. Swift Current’s Aleksi Heponiemi set that mark last season, scoring in 28 consecutive games. The All-time CHL leader during that span is Alexander Radulov, who scored a point in 50 consecutive games in the 2005/06 season.
With an assist on the play, Gregor also extended his point streak to five consecutive games. Sergei Sapego earned the extra point on the Leason goal.
The Raiders continued to push into the second. Less than two minutes in, Kody McDonald jammed the puck home on a wrap-around to give his side the lead. Cole Fonstad and Ozzy Wiesblatt earned helpers on the play. Wiesblatt’s assist increased the rookie’s point streak to five consecutive games.
Habscheid said Wiesblatt has done well in a league where 16-year-olds play against 20-year-olds.
“He’s just 16 but he’s a good player,” Habscheid said.”He’s got a lot of skill. It’s a big jump to get 16-year-olds playing against 20s. He’s done well for a young guy.”
The Raiders continued to push. With 11 minutes gone in the second frame, it was Prince Albert’s turn to score on a give-and-go. Brayden Pachal found Aliaksei Protas down low, who fed it back to Pachal in the slot. He buried the one-timer to put his team up by two. Gregor earned his second assist of the night on Pachal’s marker.
The score would stay that way until the 12-minute mark of the third period. After pinning the Raiders in their zone and forcing Scott to make a few key saves, the Pats drew a tripping penalty from Carson Miller. On the ensuing powerplay, newly-acquired Jadon Joseph wired a shot from the top of the circle past a screened Scott to cut the lead to one. It was Joseph’s 11th of the year, and his first for the Pats.
The one-goal deficit was short lived. Just under two minutes later, Jeremy Masella took a big hit at centre ice. The loose puck skittered over to Wiesblatt, who fought off two defenders and found twine to restore the two-goal deficit. McDonald also earned an assist on the play.
But the Raiders weren’t done there. With under three minutes left to play, Noah Gregor used a back-hand no-look drop pass to find Spencer Moe, who went bar down on Pats goalie Dean McNabb for his team’s fifth, and final, goal of the night.
“(Gregor) is a good player,” Habscheid said. “He’s quick, he’s fast.”
Though McNabb made 24 saves on 29 shots, he kept his team in it with several big saves, including robbing Cole Fonstad point blank twice during the course of the game.
Scott stopped 24 pucks for his league-best 22nd win of the season. He also came up big for his team, stopping three in a row in close from Pats’ top scorer Austin Pratt in the third to keep his side on top.
While it may not have been the dominant performance the Raiders have put on before, according to Habscheid, the important thing was getting the win.
“It wasn’t a Picasso, that’s for sure,” he said.
“We were hitting sticks and pucks were bouncing off and our passing wasn’t as good as it usually is. As a group, we weren’t as good as we usually are. But a win’s a win. That’s all that matters.”
The victory is the Raider’s 19th in a row, and the team’s ninth-straight on the road. Their last loss came in Red Deer back on October 6.
Despite the win streak, Habscheid said he isn’t worried it’s going to his team’s head.
“We’ve got a good group of guys. There’s no arrogance in there, no big shotitis. They’re a humble group that just comes to play every night,” he said.
“They’re respectful of everyone we play. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. They don’t take anyone for granted.”
Next up for the Raiders is a Tuesday visit to Swift Current to take on the 4-21-1-1 Broncos. They then head to Brandon Friday for the first leg of a home-and-home, returning to the Art Hauser Centre the following night to face the Wheat Kings.
Tale of the tape:
Prince Albert, 5; Regina, 2
Noah Gregor (0G,3A), Ozzy Wiesblatt (1G,1A), Kody McDonald (1G,1A), Brett Leason (1G,0A), Brayden Pachal (1G,0A), Spencer Moe (1G,0A) Aliaksei Protas (0G,1A), Cole Fonstad (0G,1A), Sergei Sapego (0G,1A), Jeremy Masella (0G,1A)
Ian Scott (W, 24/26, 2.00, .923)
Carter Massier (1G,0A), Jadon Joseph (1G,0A), Austin Pratt (0G, 1A), Nikita Sedov (0G, 1A), Marco Creta (0G,1A)
Dean McNabb (L, 24/29, 5.00, .828)
Leason extends his WHL-best point total to 60 points, and adds to his lead with a total of 27 goals.
Ian Scott falls to second in GAA (1.61) and Sv. % (.943) behind Trent Miner, who did not play Saturday night.
Parker Kelly’s point streak comes to an end after six games.
Prince Albert went three-for-four on the penalty kill and gave up a shorthanded goal for just the tenth time this year. Their PK efficiency is a league-best 92.2 per cent.
Lane Kirk and Jakob Brook were the Raiders scratches Saturday, while the Pats did not dress Steven Zonneveld, Koby Morrisseau, Sebastian Streu and Robbie Holmes.
- Brandon 5 Swift Current 2 (Linden McCorrister – Three Goals – First Hat Trick This Season and Second Career)
- Moose Jaw 3 Red Deer 2 (Tristan Langan – Three Assists)
- Calgary 4 Edmonton 3 (Kaden Elder Overtime Winner – Jake Kryski – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Lethbridge 3 Medicine Hat 1 (Jordy Bellerive – One Goal and One Assist)
- Kamloops 6 Seattle 3 (Connor Zary – Three Assists)
- Saskatoon 5 Kelowna 4 (Dawson Davidson Overtime Winner – Two Goals)
- Portland 8 Spokane 2 (Cody Glass – Three Assists)
- Victoria 5 Prince George 1 (Dante Hannoun – Two Goals)
- Vancouver 5 Tri-City 2 (Dawson Holt – One Goal and One Assist)
- Everett 3 Kootenay 0 (Max Palaga – 36 Saves – First Career Shutout)
- Medicine Hat vs. Regina – 4 p.m.
- Victoria vs. Prince George – 4 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Calgary – 5 p.m.
- Tri-City vs. Vancouver – 6 p.m.
- Red Deer vs. Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
- Kootenay vs. Portland – 7 p.m.
– With files from Lucas Punkari