Vitebsk, Belarus might become a popular tourist attraction for Prince Albert Raiders fans if Aliaksei Protas and Sergei Sapego keep up their offensive production.
The pair had two goals and an assist each to lead the way for their team Saturday night as the Raiders picked up a 6-4 victory over the Red Deer Rebels at the Art Hauser Centre and now hold a 2-0 advantage in their best-of-seven quarter-final series.
“I really like playing with Alex, especially when I can hear him calling a play in my native language,” Sapego said. “It makes things easy for me out there.
“We’re playing really well right now and we just need to keep working hard out there.”
Sapego’s showing on Saturday allowed him to match the three points that he put up in seven games during last year’s first round series with the Moose Jaw Warriors, while Protas’ has four points in two games to sit in a tie with Dante Hannoun for the team lead.
“For a first year guy, he (Protas) has done really well to adapt to how you play in the playoffs,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “He’s really embraced the type of game that’s needed at this time of the year.
“Sergei’s a multi-dimensional player. He’s good on offence and he’s gritty, which makes him tough to play against.”
Hannoun also had a big night on offence as he dished out helpers on both of Sapego’s goals and Protas’ first marker of the night, which all came in the opening frame.
“It’s a new day and a new game so we just put what happened in the first game behind us,” Hannoun said.
“We wanted to come in and play the right way and that’s what we did tonight. Red Deer had a good push there after we went up 3-1, but we were able to battle back.”
The biggest talking point from the contest came in the second period, as Brett Leason was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a check from behind on Rebels forward Cameron Hausinger.
Hausinger would return to the ice a couple of minutes later and would soon hear boos for the rest of the night from the 3,152 fans in attendance.
“It was amazing how he recovered quickly and was back out there the next shift,” Habscheid said.
“There are two good officials out there (Adam Bloski and Adam Byblow) but they fell for the embellishment, which is too bad as we lost a really good player.”
Brandon Hagel would score on that power play and then redirected a Jacob Herauf shot a minute later to tie the game at three with 11 minutes left in the second.
Brayden Pachal scored a couple of minutes later to move the Raiders back in front for good, with Protas and Ozzy Wiesblatt both finding the back of the net in the final frame to extend the lead.
“We ended up overplaying some guys a bit there when we got into penalty trouble and we knew that Red Deer was going to put forth a strong effort tonight as (Rebels head coach) Brent (Sutter) runs a good team over there,” Habscheid said.
“The guys dug in during the third period and I thought they played well, except for the one goal they scored on the power play.”
That goal gave Hagel his first career playoff hat trick as he tipped in a shot from Dawson Barteaux.
“The biggest thing for us tonight was just getting guys to the net,” Hagel said. “Ian (Scott) is a good goalie and you need to get traffic around him if you are going to beat him.
“There were some mistakes that we made over the last two games that we can’t have out there, but we have two games back home coming up and we know what we need to do if we want to come back to Prince Albert.”
Chris Douglas had the other goal for the Rebels, who got a pair of assists from Barteaux and a 25-save showing from Ethan Anders.
Noah Gregor dished out two helpers for the Raiders, while Scott turned aside 19 shots.
The series will now shift to the Westerner Park Centrium for Games 3 and 4, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If the Rebels can win either of those contests, Game 5 would be held at the Art Hauser Centre next Friday night.
Hagel’s three goal night was the first for the Rebels in a playoff game since Matthew Keith accomplished that feat during a 5-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final on April 18, 2003.
Dryden Hunt, who had three hat tricks against the Raiders during the 2015-16 campaign for the Moose Jaw Warriors, was the last opposing player to find the back of the Prince Albert on three occasions in a post-season game during a 7-0 affair in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference quarter-final matchup on March 29, 2016.
Raiders blueliner Jeremy Masella was granted a penalty shot after being hauled down by Reese Johnson on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, but his attempt was turned aside by Anders.
The only change to either lineup on Saturday was with the Rebels forward core as affiliated player Jordan Borysiuk replaced Dallon Melin.
Kyle Masters, Hunter Donohoe, Alexander Alexeyev, Blake Sydlowski and Ethan Rowland were also scratched from the Rebels, while the Raiders did not dress Loeden Schaufler.
Saturday’s Playoff Scores
- Saskatoon 3 Moose Jaw 1 (Saskatoon leads 2-0 – Max Gerlach – Two Goals)
- Lethbridge 4 Calgary 1 (Lethbridge leads 2-0 – Jake Leschyshyn – Three Goals – First Career Playoff Hat Trick)
- Medicine Hat 2 Edmonton 1 (Medicine Hat leads 1-0 – Mads Sogaard – 49 Saves)
- Seattle 4 Vancouver 1 (Series tied 1-1 – Nolan Volcan – One Goal and Two Assists – Roddy Ross – 39 Saves)
- Everett 4 Tri-City 3 (Everett leads 2-0 – Jake Christensen – One Goal and One Assist)
- Portland 5 Spokane 3 (Series tied 1-1 – Josh Paterson – Two Goals)
- Kamloops 4 Victoria 3 (Series tied 1-1 – Jermaine Loewen Overtime Winner – Kytell Sopotyk – Two Goals – Kody McDonald – Two Goals)
- North Bay 5 Niagara 2 (Series tied 1-1 – Mason Primeau – One Goal and Two Assists – Christian Propp – 43 Saves)
- Sudbury 3 Mississauga 2 (Sudbury leads 2-0 – David Levin Overtime Winner – Two Goals)
- Saginaw 5 Sarnia 1 (Saginaw leads 2-0 – Damien Giroux – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Sault Ste. Marie 6 Owen Sound 3 (Series tied 1-1 – Morgan Frost – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Sherbrooke 6 Blainville-Boisbriand 0 (Series tied 1-1 – Samuel Poulin – Three Goals – First Career Playoff Hat Trick – Dakota Lund-Cornish – 17 Saves – First Career Playoff Shutout)
- Moncton 5 Baie-Comeau 2 (Series tied 1-1 – Mika Cyr – One Goal and Three Assists)
- Rimouski 3 Chicoutimi 2 (Rimouski leads 2-0 – D’Artagnan Joly Quadruple Overtime Winner – Alexis Shank – 80 Saves)
- Quebec 5 Halifax 4 (Quebec leads 2-0 – Philipp Kurashev Overtime Winner – Matthew Grouchy – Three Assists)
- Charlottetown 6 Cape Breton 4 (Charlottetown leads 2-0 – Daniel Hardie – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Shawinigan 4 Rouyn-Noranda 3 (Series tied 1-1 – Justin Blanchette – 57 Saves)
- Drummondville 4 Gatineau 1 (Drummondville leads 2-0 – Maxime Comtois – Three Goals – First Career Playoff Hat Trick)
- Hamilton vs. Ottawa (Game 2) – 12 p.m.
- Windsor vs. London (Game 2) – 12 p.m.
- Kitchener vs. Guelph (Game 2) – 12 p.m.
- Peterborough vs. Oshawa (Game 2) – 4 p.m.
- Sudbury vs. Mississauga (Game 3) – 5 p.m.
- Val-d’Or vs. Victoriaville (Game 2) – 1 p.m.
- Medicine Hat vs. Edmonton (Game 2) – 6 p.m.
- Sault Ste. Marie vs. Owen Sound (Game 3) – 5 p.m.