Fonstad and Bilous spoil Blades home opener

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward Cole Fonstad celebrates his third period goal against the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday night at the SaskTel Centre.

A night after the Saskatoon Blades picked up an overtime triumph in the first game of the season at the Art Hauser Centre, the Prince Albert Raiders earned a measure of revenge in the curtain raiser at SaskTel Centre Saturday.

Cole Fonstad broke a scoreless affair with 7:58 to go in the third period and Boston Bilous turned aside 26 shots for his first shutout in a Raiders uniform as the defending Western Hockey League championships picked up their first win of the campaign in a 1-0 contest.

“We definitely had a sour taste in our mouths after last night, especially with all of the ceremonies before the game,” Bilous said. “It’s all about how you respond and we were looking to do the same thing that they did to us tonight.”

“This one could have gone either way once again, but we’re sure glad to get three out of the four points against a team that’s ranked third in the country,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid added.

Bilous, who previously had a clean sheet in a 15-save outing during a 5-0 Edmonton Oil Kings victory over the Swift Current Broncos on Sept. 28, 2018, made a number of big cross-crease and breakaway stops throughout the night.

However, his most clutch plays came during the final 75 seconds of the contest as the Raiders faced a six-on-four situation as Justin Nachbaur sat in the penalty box after tripping up Tristen Robins.

After turning aside a shot that Riley McKay took from the side of the net, Bilous flashed the leather on a long-range attempt from Kyle Crnkovic as time expired to help the Raiders improve to 1-0-1-0.

“Those saves were big but the team were making big blocks in front of me too,” Bilous said. “From Max Martin to Jeremy Masella, the list goes on of everyone who was stepping up to help me out.

“In my opinion, a shutout is all about how the team plays. You are going to make saves, but if the team isn’t playing well, those shutouts don’t happen.”

After being stymied by Nolan Maier earlier in the night, Fonstad picked up his first goal of the year by completing a nice give-and-go play with linemate Aliaksei Protas.

“Alex made a great play on that one as he stopped up and messed with the defenceman’s (Libor Zabransky’s) gap there,” Fonstad said. “I was trying to pick up speed and went out wide, then Alex made a great pass to me and I tried to get the shot off as quick as I could.

“It felt great to step up on that play, especially as I’m an older guy now and that’s what I’m expected to do. I didn’t like how the first period went but I felt like the pace was starting to pick up for our line (which also includes Ozzy Wiesblatt) as the game went on.”

While Bilous and Maier, who turned aside 25 shots for the 1-1 Blades, had strong showings on Saturday, both sides were still in a bit of a feeling out process.

“If you saw the first period, that was as ugly of a period as I’ve seen,” Habscheid joked. “We didn’t have people coming out of their seats on that one.

“There’s a lot of new faces on both teams and I think we’re each in the same spot at the moment,” Fonstad added. “We’re learning to read off one another and the new guys are getting used to our systems. It’s a process, but we’re getting better each time we play.”

The Raiders will look to continue their winning ways next Friday night when they take on the Regina Pats in a 7 p.m. affair at the Brandt Centre.

They will then return to the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Winnipeg Ice.

Post-Game Notes

Boston Bilous became the first goalie not named Ian Scott to get a shutout for the Raiders since Rylan Parenteau’s 40-save performance in a 2-0 road win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Dec. 4, 2015.

He is also the first netminder to blank the Blades since Jesse Deckert stopped all 20 shots he faced in a 5-0 affair on March 16, 2007 at the Art Hauser Centre.

The Raiders dressed the exact same lineup as they did on Friday with Zack Hayes, Jakob Brook and Cohner Saleski all being scratched.

The Blades once again left Charlie Wright, Brandon Lisowsky and Braden Plaschewsky out of the action, but they were also without the services of Eric Florchuk and Nolan Kneen.

Florchuk left Friday’s season opener in the first period after a hit by Justin Nachbaur and is out with an upper body injury, while Kneen was drawn out of the lineup in favour of fellow overager Riley McKay.

Saskatoon currently has four 20-year-olds in their lineup and will have to get rid of one of Kneen, McKay, Scott Walford or Ryan Hughes by Oct. 10.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Everett 6 Victoria 0 (Gage Goncalves – Four Assists – Dustin Wolf – 26 Saves – 12th Career Shutout)
  • Kelowna 4 Spokane 3 (Dillon Hamaliuk Overtime Winner – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Lethbridge 3 Medicine Hat 1 (Bryan Thomson – 32 Saves)
  • Moose Jaw 5 Regina 3 (Ryder Korczak – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Portland 6 Tri-City 1 (Cross Hanas – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Vancouver 4 Prince George 1 (Jackson Shepard – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Edmonton 4 Red Deer 2 (Scott Atkinson – Two Goals)
  • Seattle 4 Kamloops 1 (Roddy Ross – 50 Saves)
  • Swift Current 3 Calgary 2 (Joona Kiviniemi Overtime Winner – Isaac Poulter – 34 Saves)
  • Brandon 4 Winnipeg 2 (Luka Burzan – Two Goals)

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Red Deer vs. Edmonton – 4 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Portland – 6 p.m.