Raiders drop tight contest in Brandon

Connor Gutenberg of the Brandon Wheat Kings races for the puck alongside Ozzy Wiesblatt (19) and Brayden Watts of the Prince Albert Raiders on January 3 in Prince Albert. Photo courtesy Ryan Stelter/Brandon Sun.

One bounce was all it took for the Raiders’ longest losing streak of the year to continue in Brandon Friday night.

It was a tip from Chad Nychuk that found the back of the net as the Brandon Wheat Kings topped the 20-13-4-1 Raiders 1-0 to extend Prince Albert’s losing streak to seven games.

“We can be not happy with the result, but the process is there,” said Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid after the game.

“We played fine. We outshot them, we outplayed them. Same old story. Their goalie was the first star again. We just have to keep grinding away.”

The Raiders weren’t without their chances. They outshot Brandon from buzzer to buzzer, with Raiders swarming the net and earning scoring chances throughout the contest.

One of the best chances came about midway through the third period when Prince Albert forward Ozzy Wiesblatt worked his way into the offensive zone. He fought for the puck through legs and sticks of four defenders before getting the puck on the net. It deflected off of a stick and through the legs of Wheat King goalie Jiri Patera before Connor Gutenberg plucked it out of the blue paint and cleared it away.

Patera’s 29 saves earned him his second shutout of the season. The Vegas draft pick has ten wins in 20 games with Brandon this season.

On the other end, Raider goalie Boston Bilous wasn’t as busy but had some flurries where he also made several key saves, including a sequence that ended with him stopping Nychuk point-blank, despite losing his stick.

Bilous finished with 20 saves in the losing effort.

Brandon Wheat Kings forward Luka Burzan avoids a point shot as Prince Albert Raiders netminder Boston Bilous prepares to make a save during first period WHL action at Westoba Place on Friday. (Ryan Stelter/The Brandon Sun)

Only one shot solved him — and it came from Nychuk. He picked up the puck in his own end and gathered speed through the neutral zone. The 6-foot-1 Rossburn, Man. product gained the zone, dished the puck off to Ben McCartney at the point and cut through the middle to the net.

Nychuk then tipped McCartney’s point shot, slipping the puck through the five-hole of Bilous, who was unable to react to the change of direction right in front of him. That goal, coming midway through the second period, proved to be all the 18-17-1-2 Wheat Kings would need as they earned their 18th win of the season and their third in a row.

“They found one that found its way in,” Habscheid said. “End of story.”

The game saw few whistles as play rushed from end to end. The handful of stoppages were mostly due to penalties. The Raiders were shorthanded six times, killing off each of Brandon’s attempts.

The Wheat Kings found themselves down a man three times, but the Raiders also couldn’t score.

“If you’re not scoring your powerplay has got to be better,” he said. “We took too many penalties.”

Despite losing each of the last seven games, Habscheid is pleased with the way his side is playing.

“Just keep playing the right way. Eventually, it will turn,” he said.

“We’re outshooting every team. We allowed the least amount of shots in December of anyone in our league. We’ll get there.”

Next up for the Raiders is back to back games against the Winnipeg Ice. The Raiders travel to Winnipeg Saturday and face off against the Ice again on Sunday. Saturday’s game is at 7:30 while puck drop Sunday is at 6 p.m.

Winnipeg is battling Prince Albert for first in the East Division. The 23-3-1-0 Ice are two points ahead of the Raiders in the standings with one game in hand.

The Raiders have bested the Ice twice this year winning 3-1 on December 13 and downing the Ice 3-2 back on September 28. In their most recent meeting on December 30, Winnipeg came away with the 3-2 victory.

Post-Game Notes

The Raiders added another goaltender to their roster late Friday night as they acquired 19-year-old Keegan Karki from the Everett Silvertips for a fourth round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.

“We have watched Keegan very closely over the past month,” Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt said in a statement.

“We like his size, his athleticism, and we believe he has great pro potential. We feel he is just coming into his own.”

Karki, who calls Sartell, Minn. home, was signed by the Silvertips last spring after stints with the US NTDP, the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks and the NAHL’s Corpus Christi IceRays over the previous three seasons.

He had an 8-1-2 record with a 3.19 goals against average and a .897 save percentage as the backup to Calgary Flames prospect Dustin Wolf.

Prior to Friday, the Raiders were last shutout on Dec. 9, 2018 in a 1-0 affair against the Saskatoon Blades at the SaskTel Centre in a 32 save performance by Nolan Maier.

Jiri Patera is the first Wheat Kings goaltender to shutout the Raiders since Joe Caligiuri stopped 17 shots in a 3-0 affair at the Art Hauser Centre on Feb. 10, 2008.

Michael Horon and Tyson Laventure did not dress for the Raiders, while the Wheat Kings scratched Jack Zayat, Nolan Ritchie, Lynden McCallum, Cole Reinhardt, Riley Ginnell and Rylan Thiessen.

Friday’s Scores

  • Edmonton 5 Moose Jaw 0 (Ethan McIndoe – Three Assists – Sebastian Cossa – 14 Saves – Third Shutout This Season)
  • Kamloops 2 Vancouver 1 (Zane Franklin Overtime Winner – David Tendeck – 45 Saves)
  • Victoria 2 Kelowna 1 (Kaid Oliver – Two Goals)
  • Seattle 5 Lethbridge 4 (Payton Mount Overtime Winner – Henrik Rybinski – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Medicine Hat 5 Calgary 2 (James Hamblin – Two Goals)
  • Prince George 4 Everett 3 (Tyson Upper – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Saskatoon 4 Red Deer 3 (Chase Wouters Overtime Winner – Nolan Maier – 30 Saves)
  • Portland 6 Spokane 4 (Reece Newkirk – Two Goals)
  • Swift Current 7 Regina 5 (Ethan Regnier – One Goal and Three Assists)

Around the WHL

The Tri-City Americans parted ways with another veteran on Thursday.

After sending starting netminder Beck Warm to the Edmonton Oil Kings a day earlier, the Americans dealt 20-year-old forward and team captain Kyle Olson to the Calgary Hitmen for fellow overager James Malm, a second round pick in the 2020 draft and a conditional fourth round pick in 2022.

Olson has 14 points in 16 games this season and is coming off a career best 70-point campaign.

He was a fourth round pick by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2017 NHL Draft but did not sign an entry level contract with the club.

The trade took a bit of a turn on Friday as the Americans announced in a release that Malm had refused to report to the club and had been suspended by the WHL.

The release also said that the Hitmen and Americans have agreed to additional compensation to satisfy both parties with the trade.

Malm, who was coming off a career-best 77-point season last year with the Vancouver Giants and the Hitmen, had 17 points in 21 games at the time of the deal.

The WHL trade deadline is at for 4 p.m. on Friday.

Around the CHL

While things remain quiet in the Ontario Hockey League ahead of next week’s trade deadline, it’s been a busy month of transactions in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League ahead of their trade freeze on Monday.

The biggest transaction occurred just before Christmas as the Halifax Mooseheads sent 19-year-old forward and team captain Benoit-Olivier Groulx to the Moncton Wildcats for three draft picks.

Groulx, who is a signed prospect of the Anaheim Ducks and was the final cut from Canada’s world junior team, was third on the Mooseheads in scoring with 41 points in 26 games.

Another big trade took place on Thursday as the Baie-Comeau Drakkar dealt 19-year-old forward and team captain Gabriel Fortier to the Moncton Wildcats for 16-year-old forward prospect Julien Hebert and five draft picks.

Fortier, who is a signed prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was second on the Drakaar in scoring with 32 points in 36 games.

Hebert, who was a third round pick by the Wildcats in last year’s QMJHL Draft, has 32 points in 25 games this season in the Quebec Midget AAA Hockey League for the Levis Chevaliers.

World Juniors Update

After a dominating 6-1 performance over Slovakia on Thursday, Canada will be looking for a measure of revenge in the semifinal round of the 2020 World Juniors on Saturday in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

They will be taking on Finland at 12 p.m. in the first meeting between the two sides since Finland won a wild 2-1 overtime encounter in last year’s quarter-final game in Vancouver.

Finland would then go on to beat the United States for their third title in the last six years.

Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) led the way for Canada on Thursday with two goals and an assist, while Alexis Lafreniere (Rimouski Oceanic) had a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup.

Lethbridge Hurricanes teammates Calen Addison and Dylan Cozens both had a pair of helpers in the triumph, as did Erie Otters blueliner Jamie Drysdale.

Jacob Bernard-Docker (North Dakota Fighting Hawks) and London Knights forwards Liam Foudy and Connor McMichael also lit the lamp.

Joel Hofer (Portland Winterhawks) made 17 saves in the contest, with his lone blemish coming on a third period snipe by Oliver Okuliar (Lethbridge Hurricanes).

Finland reached the quarter-final round with a 1-0 win over the United States on Thursday.

Joonas Oden (KooKoo) scored the winning goal on a third period power play, while Justus Annunen (Karpat) made 30 saves.

Spencer Knight (Boston College Eagles) turned aside 28 shots in a losing effort.

The other semifinal game will get underway at 8 a.m. between Sweden and Russia.

Sweden is still undefeated in tournament play after a 5-0 win over the host Czech Republic.

Nils Hoglander (Rogle) had two goals and an assist in the contest, which saw Hugo Alnefelt (HV71) stop all 23 shots he faced.

Dmitry Vorkonov (AK Bars Kazan) had a pair of goals for Russia in their 3-1 quarter-final round win over Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Germany hold a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three relegation series with Kazakhstan, which resumes early Saturday morning.

The Germans won the opening game on Thursday by a score of 4-0.

If Kazakhstan can beat Germany on Saturday, a third and deciding match will be held on Sunday.

The winner of the series will remain in the top flight for next year’s tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer, while the loser will drop down to the Division I tournament and be replaced by Austria.

The bronze medal game will be held on Sunday at 8 a.m., with the gold medal contest starting at 12 p.m.

Pre-Game Notes

The Ice head into this weekend’s series with the Raiders on a four-game win streak, with most recent triumph coming in a 6-1 affair against the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday at the SaskTel Centre.

Three of the Ice’s forwards are on multi-game point streaks as the line of Connor McClennon (nine games), Owen Pederson (seven games) and Peyton Krebs (five games) have caused fits for the opposition.

Forwards Michael Milne and Brad Ginnell, defender Nolan Orzeck and goaltender Jesse Makaj are all currently out of the Ice lineup due to injuries.

Michal Teply’s status for the weekend is not known as he’s returning from playing for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors.

Forward Nino Kinder remains at the event as he plays for Germany in their relegation series with Kazakhstan.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Swift Current vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Winnipeg – 7:30 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Portland – 8 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Red Deer – 8 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Kelowna – 9 p.m.

— With files from Lucas Punkari