In what was easily the wildest game at the Art Hauser Centre so far in the 2018-19 campaign, the Prince Albert Raiders found a way to keep their perfect record on home ice intact.
After Vince Loschavio redirected a shot from Matthew Robertson with 6.6 seconds to go to the tie game up for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Cole Fonstad would score three minutes into overtime as the Raiders improved to 15-0 in Prince Albert this season with a 6-5 victory.
“This was a huge win for us,” Fonstad said. “We showed the depth we have on our team tonight with a few guys out and our confidence was still there even when they tied it late.
“In overtime, it’s all about having possession. After I got the puck, (Noah) Gregor went off for a change so I took the puck back and tried to build up some speed. Max (Martin) was able to make a quick pass to me and I was able to get a shot off once I got in their zone.”
It was an interesting game for the Raiders, who were without goaltender Ian Scott, defenceman Sergei Sapego and forwards Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas due to their participations with the Canadian and Belarusian junior national teams.
Already without some key weapons, the Raiders would later go down to four blueliners during the last half of the second period after Zach Hayes was left bleeding following a spirited tussle with Quinn Benjafield.
“We had gotten ourselves into a little penalty trouble earlier and then we were without our top two defenceman there for a bit after Hayes left,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “With a shorter bench, that made things a little bit difficult.
“It was a good character win by the guys, especially as our lines were a little disjointed as the game was going on. They found a way to win and that’s what matters.”
Hayes returned to the ice for the third period, which coincided with an impressive charge by the home side.
Down 4-3 with 8:05 to go, Martin wired a shot past Todd Scott to tie up the game, with Carson Miller converting a great feed from Ozzy Wiesblatt 33 seconds later to put the Raiders out in front 5-4.
“We really like to have a next guy steps up mentality on this team,” Raiders forward Parker Kelly said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s someone like Gregor the last couple of games or Miller tonight. It’s always someone different and it really shows how deep we are as a team.”
Gregor had two goals and an assist for the Raiders, who improved their record to 29-2-0-1, while Martin and Fonstad had a goal and two helpers each.
Kelly and Miller had the other goals for the hosts.
Donovan Buskey improved to 6-0 on the season with a 30-save performance, with his best stop coming with 14 minutes to go in the third period as he made a sprawling blocker save to rob Brett Kemp on a two-on-zero breakaway that he had with Conner McDonald.
“That was huge for us as it pretty much saved our chances of winning the game,” Fonstad said. “Donovan made a number of great stops tonight and we’re really proud of how he played.”
McDonald had a goal and two assists to pace the offence for the 16-12-4-2 Oil Kings, who have lost two straight games and are tied with the Lethbridge Hurricanes for second place in the Central Division standings.
“There’s a lot of positives that we can take away from this game, especially as we head back home for two games this weekend (against the Calgary Hitmen and Kootenay Ice) before the Christmas break,” McDonald said.
“The biggest thing was just how we were able to tie the game up late and force overtime. A lot of guys would get discouraged and go through the motions after giving up the lead, but I’m really proud of how we were able to battle back.”
David Kope had a goal and an assist in the loss, while Jake Neighbours and Carter Souch joined Loschavio in finding the back of the net.
Scott turned aside 26 shots and Trey Fix-Wolansky recorded an assist to tie the absent Leason for the Western Hockey League scoring lead with 64 points.
Next up for the Raiders, who have a 16-point lead over the Saskatoon Blades in the East Division standings, is a home-and-home series with the Swift Current Broncos before the team heads off on its Christmas break.
The two sides will square Friday evening in Swift Current before returning to the Art Hauser Centre Saturday at 7 p.m. for the Raiders’ annual Teddy Bear Toss Game.
Prior to Wednesday’s game, a moment of silence was held in honour of Raiders director of player personnel Ron Gunville, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 48.
A celebration of Gunville’s life will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Ches Leach Lounge in the Art Hauser Centre.
Tyson Laventure, the Raiders second round pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, made his WHL debut Wednesday and was joined in the lineup by first round pick Nolan Allan, who was taking part in his fifth game this year.
The Raiders have now won five straight games over the Oil Kings, in a streak that dates back to Dec. 2, 2017.
In addition to Scott, Sapego, Protas and Leason, the Raiders also did not dress blueliners Lane Kirk and Braydon Clark on Wednesday.
Thanks to his assist, which gave him the league lead over Portland’s Cody Glass with 43, Fix-Wolansky extended his point streak to 10 games.
That has him in a tie with Vancouver’s Davis Koch for the second longest active run in the league, with Glass’ having a 15-game streak ahead of attending Canada’s World Junior camp.
Not in the lineup for the Oil Kings on Wednesday were goaltender Dylan Myskiw, defencemen Jacson Alexander and Will Warm, plus forwards Vladimir Alistrov, Dylan Guenther and Andrei Pavlenko.
World Junior Update
Protas helped to set up two goals by Alistrov on Wednesday in Fussen, Germany as Belarus improved to 3-0 at the Division I World Juniors with a 5-0 win over Austria.
Sapego did not record a point during the contest, which saw former Oil Kings player Artyom Baltruk dish out three helpers and netminder Andrei Grischenko make 16 save to earn the shutout.
Belarus will be back in action Thursday at 1 p.m. against the host Germans, with the winner putting themselves in the drivers seat to earn an automatic promotion into next year’s World Juniors in the Czech Republic.
Dominik Bokk, a St. Louis Blues prospect that the Raiders took in the 2017 CHL Import Draft, has four assists in three games at the tournament.
Meanwhile, Canada opened up their selection camp for the World Juniors in Victoria, B.C. Wednesday night as Boston Terriers forward Shane Bowers scored the winning goal in the ninth round of a shootout for a 3-2 victory over a team made up of players from U Sports.
Oshawa Generals forward Jack Studnicka scored twice in regulation, with both of his goals being setup by Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Leason did not record a point, while Scott made 18 saves after replacing Michael DiPietro of the Ottawa 67’s halfway through the game, with his only blemish coming when Luke Philp tied the game with 8.1 seconds to go.
DiPietro also made 18 stops, while Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds played the entire game for U Sports and turned aside 28 shots.
The biggest story coming out of Wednesday’s scrimmage involved London Knights forward Alex Formenton, who suffered an apparent knee injury following a collision with Riley Sheen in the final seconds of overtime.
There was no update on his status following the game.
- Swift Current 4 Regina 3 (Andrew Fyten – Two Goals)
- Lethbridge 5 Kelowna 1 (Taylor Ross – One Goal and One Assist)
- Medicine Hat 4 Kamloops 2 (Ryan Jevne – Two Goals)
- Spokane 4 Everett 3 (Jake McGrew Shootout Winner – Bailey Brkin – 43 Saves)
- Portland 7 Victoria 2 (Joachim Blichfeld – Two Goals and Two Assists)