The Prince Albert Raiders rallied late, but it wasn’t enough to beat the hottest team in the WHL.
Brayden Pachal had the lone goal for the Raiders, who fell 3-1 to the Vancouver Giants on Thursday in a game that was aired nationally on Sportsnet. The Giants have now won seven in a row, and pulled within six points of the idle Everett Silvertips for first in the WHL’s Western Conference.
Goaltenders Ian Scott and Trent Miner kept the game scoreless in the first period, but the Giants jumped out in front halfway through the second.
Raiders forward Cole Fonstad forced Miner to make a big save on a two-on-one, and afterwards the Giants raced back up the ice and scored on an odd-man-rush of their own. Brayden Watts got the goal with a hard wrist-shot past Scott’s glove hand to make it 1-0 for the home team.
The Giants increased their lead in the second when Davis Koch scored his first of two goals on the night. Koch took a breakaway pass from Lukas Svejkovsky and fired the puck top corner for a 2-0 Vancouver lead.
Despite generating plenty of shots, the Raiders struggled to beat Miner, who made a number of tough saves on the night, including back-to-back point-blank saves on Brett Leason during the second.
Noah Gregor then had a glorious chance in front of the net, but fired a backhand shot over the crossbar.
The Raiders finally got a bit of puck-luck late in the third when Brayden Pachal’s point shot took a strange bounce and slipped past a screened Miner to cut the lead in half. However, that’s as close as Prince Albert got.
Exactly a minute later, Koch grabbed a loose puck and lobbed a shot into the empty Raider net from his own side of the red line, giving Vancouver the 3-1 victory.
With the loss, the Raiders fall to 40-6-0-2 on the season, but still sit 20 points up on Saskatoon for first in the East Division. The Giants, meanwhile, improve to 30-12-2-0.
Scott made 25 saves for the Raiders, while Miner stopped 31 shots to win his 14th game of the season.
The Raiders are back in action for the final game of their Western Road Trip when they visit the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook on Saturday, Jan. 26. Puck drop is 8 p.m. CST.