After being stymied by Nolan Maier for two straight games, the Prince Albert Raiders offence made sure that wasn’t the case Friday.
In front of another sellout crowd at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders were able to solve the Saskatoon Blades netminder and chased him from the game late in the third period on their way to a 6-1 win in Game 5 of their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I thought both teams and the crowd were tentative at the start of the game,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “It was a really careful first period and then things started to open up after that. I told the guys just to play like they can after the first period and they did just that.”
“We felt like our game was there in Saskatoon on Tuesday and Wednesday, but we just didn’t do enough to get the win,” Raiders forward Noah Gregor added. “We were better in a few areas tonight and it was those little things that made the difference.”
Gregor helped to kickstart the offence with pair of goals and an assist, as his first marker came on a shorthanded breakaway in the middle frame and his second came a few minutes later on a power move towards the net.
“We need him to rise to the occasions in these big games,” Habscheid said. “That’s why we brought him here.
“It’s one thing to score in the regular season against lesser teams, but these are the games that you need to step forward. I thought he did a good job tonight, along with some of our other big players.”
Dante Hannoun also had two goals and an assist in the win, which gave the Raiders a 3-2 advantage in the series.
Brett Leason dished out three helpers for the hosts, who also got goals from Aliaksei Protas and Sean Montgomery.
Ian Scott made 26 saves in the win, with his only blemish coming on a second period goal from Blades blueliner Emil Malysjev.
Maier’s night came to an end with 6:06 to go, as he was pulled for backup Koen MacInnes after allowing six goals on 25 shots.
“It was the same deal as Game 1 where it wasn’t his fault at all with what happened out there,” Blades head coach Mitch Love said.
“I thought we played fine until Riley (McKay) took that goaltender interference penalty in the second. They got some life with the power play goal (by Hannoun) and it was tough for us to come back from that.”
The Raiders will have a chance to earn a spot in the Eastern Conference final Sunday in Saskatoon as they’ll head to the SaskTel Centre for Game 6 at 4 p.m.
“One of us is going to have to win a game on the road if we want to win this series,” Gregor said. “We just need to go into Saskatoon with the same mindset that we had tonight.”
“They’ve won three straight in their building,” Love added. “Now we just have to win a third in our rink.”
If the Blades can stave off elimination Sunday, a seventh and deciding game would take place at the Art Hauser Centre Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The winner of the series will take on the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference final.
With Cole Fonstad already out of the Raiders lineup due to an undisclosed injury, Game 5 became a war of attrition for both sides.
Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt left the ice in the first period after being hit in the face during a clearing attempt by Blades blueliner Brandon Schuldhaus, but he would return to the ice in the middle frame with a full cage.
The Blades then lost Kirby Dach during the second period after he collided with Brett Leason, though the draft eligible forward was back on the bench for the third period.
Then in the late stages of regulation, Blades defender Dawson Davidson was shaken up after a hit by Justin Nachbaur that resulted in the Raiders forward being given a five minute major for interference and a game misconduct.
Davidson’s status is unknown for Sunday’s game in Saskatoon.
Fonstad was the only scratch for the Raiders, while the Blades did not dress Dorrin Luding, Alex Ozar, Majid Kaddoura, Randen Schmidt and Colton Dach.
- Everett 4 Spokane 1 (Spokane leads 3-1 – Connor Dewar – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Sault Ste. Marie 6 Saginaw 2 (Saginaw leads 3-2 – Morgan Frost – Three Goals and One Assist – First Career Playoff Hat Trick)
- Guelph 3 London 1 (London leads 3-2 – Nick Suzuki – Two Goals)
- Rimouski 5 Cape Breton 3 (Rimouski wins 4-1 – Will play Rouyn-Noranda in Semifinal – Alexis Lafreniere – Three Assists)
- Drummondville 3 Sherbrooke 2 (Drummondville wins 4-1 – Will play Halifax in Semifinal – Maxime Comtois Double Overtime Winner – Dakota Lund-Cornish – 69 Saves)
- Vancouver 6 Victoria 1 (Vancouver wins 4-0 – Jared Dmytriw – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Ottawa 3 Sudbury 2 (Ottawa wins 4-0 – Tye Felhaber Overtime Winner – Michael DiPietro – 58 Saves – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen – 60 Saves)
- Oshawa 7 Niagara 3 (Series tied 2-2 – Anthony Salinitri – Two Goals)
- Sault Ste. Marie 3 Saginaw 0 (Saginaw leads 3-1 – Morgan Frost – Three Assists – Matthew Villalta – 25 Saves – Second Career Playoff Shutout and First This Year)
- Rimouski 5 Cape Breton 2 (Rimouski leads 3-1 – Charle-Edouard D’Astous – Three Assists)
- Rouyn-Noranda 6 Victoriaville 2 (Rouyn-Noranda wins 4-0 – Joel Teasdale – Three Goals and One Assist – First Career Playoff Hat Trick)
- Oshawa vs. Niagara (Game 5) – 5 p.m.
- London vs. Guelph (Game 6) – 5 p.m.
- Everett vs. Spokane (Game 5) – 8 p.m.
- Prince Albert vs. Saskatoon (Game 6) – 4 p.m.
- Saginaw vs. Sault Ste. Marie (Game 6) – 5 p.m.