Raiders conclude homestand in convincing fashion

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Captain Brayden Pachal skates by the Prince Albert Raiders bench after scoring a goal earlier this season.

A night after stopping the Portland Winterhawks’ six-game win streak, the Prince Albert Raiders did the exact same thing to the Calgary Hitmen.

The hottest team in the Western Hockey League were unable to slow down the Raiders’ attack Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre, as the hosts picked up a 7-3 victory and improved their record to 37-5-0-1 in the process.

“Our first period (where the Raiders scored twice and outshot the Hitmen by a 15-4 margin) was probably one of our best of the year,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We were playing fast, we weren’t missing a pass and you could tell that the guys had their mojo back.

“We were playing the right way tonight. Our energy and execution was good and it felt like we were in sync.”

One of the players who helped to generate chances for the Raiders was assistant captain Parker Kelly, who led the offence with two goals and an assist.

Although it had only been two games since his last goal, the Ottawa Senators’ prospect was starting to wonder what it would take to find the back of the net as he had been stymied on numerous chances against the Winterhawks and Hitmen.

“When you get a lot of opportunities like that and you can’t score, it really starts to feel like it’s been a lifetime since you’ve put one in, especially when you miss some open nets and hit a few posts,” Kelly said.

Although Habscheid jokingly offered him the use of a goalie stick to try and score after he hit the post late in the second period, Kelly didn’t need it in the third as he lit the lamp twice in the final frame.

“We actually talked this morning and he told me to not get to down on myself,” Kelly said. “He said he’d only be concerned if I wasn’t getting the chances, and luckily I was able to score on a couple tonight.”

Dante Hannoun also got the monkey off his back Saturday as he wired a shot home in the second period to record his first goal as a member of the Raiders.

“It was pretty special to get that one,” said Hannoun, who also had an assist on one of Kelly’s third period goals. “We were battling hard along the boards and (Zack Hayes) made a good play to get the puck out. I was just lucky enough to be there and get the shot on net.”

“I thought he played really well tonight,” Habscheid said. “You can tell that he’s more used to our speed and pace out there, which has allowed him to generate some chances.”

Cole Fonstad and Ozzy Wiesblatt had a goal and an assist each for the Raiders, while Sergei Sapego had a pair of assists.

Brayden Pachal and Brett Leason also scored in the triumph, which saw Ian Scott make 21 saves.

The 21-17-3-1 Hitmen, who have lost all three meetings to the Raiders this year, got a two-goal outing from Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Riley Stotts.

Former Raider Luke Coleman also scored for the visitors, who received a 34-save performance from rookie netminder Jack McNaughton.

With the 2019 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships now taking over the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders will head out on the road for the next six games, as they’ll start their adventure through British Columbia on Wednesday against the Prince George Cougars.

“That trip can be a bit of a culture shock if you are new to the league,” Kelly said. “You get to play in bigger buildings and in front of more fans, plus it’s a long 12 days being away from home.

“I’m sure us older guys will be giving the rookies some pointers, but it will be a great experience for everyone.”

The Raiders will be back at home on Friday, Feb. 1 for a date with the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Post-Game Notes

Thanks to their seven-goal outing Saturday, the Raiders are now two markers away from cracking the 200 goal mark for the campaign.

Only the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL have surpassed that plateau this year, as they’ve found the back of the net on 214 occasions.

Brayden Pachal’s 11th goal of the season briefly gave him the outright lead among all blueliners in the WHL, but he was again surpassed by Bowen Byram as the Vancouver Giants defenceman scored twice Saturday.

Bryce Bader and Loeden Schaufler did not dress for the Raiders Saturday, while the Hitmen scratched Tye Carriere, Jake Kryski and Carl Stankowski.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Brandon 3 Moose Jaw 2 (Jiri Patera – 27 Saves)
  • Red Deer 9 Regina 4 (Brandon Hagel – Three Goals and Two Assists – Second Hat Trick This Season and Fifth Career)
  • Portland 5 Saskatoon 4 (Mason Mannek – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Seattle 5 Swift Current 3 (Sean Richards – Two Goals)
  • Lethbridge 3 Kootenay 2 (Jordy Bellerive – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Edmonton 2 Medicine Hat 1 (Vince Loschiavo Overtime Winner – Mads Sogaard – 32 Saves)
  • Prince George 4 Kelowna 0 (Ethan Browne – Three Assists – Taylor Gauthier – 20 Saves – Third Shutout This Season)
  • Vancouver 7 Kamloops 4 (Bowen Byram – Two Goals and Three Assists)
  • Spokane 8 Tri-City 3 (Jaret Anderson-Dolan – Three Assists)
  • Everett 3 Victoria 0 (Dustin Wolf – 29 Saves – Fourth Shutout This Season and Eighth Career)

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Swift Current – 4 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Edmonton – 6 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Vancouver – 6 p.m.