Matthew Culling picked an excellent time to score his first goal for the Prince Albert Raiders.
The 18-year-old forward from Regina, who had been held without a point in his first eight games for the team after being acquired from the Swift Current Broncos last month, found the back of the net with 1:26 to go in overtime as the Raiders edged the Prince George Cougars in a 2-1 affair at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It was a good play by my linemate Reece (Vitelli) to poke it (the puck) to me and I was there at the right moment,” Culling said. “I’m happy that it went in and it was nice to get that (monkey) off the back a little bit.”
“He’s a great kid and he’s really fit in seemingly with us,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “It’s nice for him to get an important goal like that for us, especially in this building.”
Friday’s contest also marked the first appearance in a Raiders uniform for goaltender Max Paddock, who was acquired from the Regina Pats a day earlier.
“It was interesting when he got introduced,” Habscheid said. “I had to check my notebook because I thought it was Carey Price out there with the way that the fans cheered for him.”
“It’s certainly a lot nicer to have the cheers as this is a tough place to play as a road team,” Paddock added. “It’s an exciting time for me and it’s nice to be back on a winning team.”
Paddock was solid in his debut for the Raiders as he turned aside 20 shots on his way to earning first star honours.
“It’s been a complete blur over the last couple of days,” Paddock said. “I wasn’t able to move into my billet house until around one o’clock this afternoon so I was still unpacking up until game time.
“It’s a good life experience for me though. Regina’s been my home for the last four years and I’m ready to start a new adventure.”
While Paddock won over the Raiders faithful, it was Cougars netminder Taylor Gauthier who nearly stole the show with a spectacular 38-save showing.
Gauthier saved his best work for overtime as he came across the crease to rob Kaiden Guhle on a one-timer attempt and made a huge glove save a couple of minutes later on Evan Herman.
“Taylor was great for us tonight like he always is,” Cougars forward Nikita Krivokrasov said.
“I think we had a lot of positives that we can take from this, especially with how we responded when Prince Albert made a push there, and now we just need to make sure that we can keep building off this.”
Ilya Usau had the other goal for the 22-14-5-1 Raiders, while Jonny Hooker countered for the 10-22-3-4 Cougars.
The Raiders will conclude their three-game homestand on Saturday as they’ll welcome the league-leading Edmonton Oil Kings to town for a 7 p.m. matchup.
Krivokrasov, who suited up in 36 games for the Raiders from 2017 to 2018, made his first trip back to his old home rink on Friday night.
“It’s nice to be back here in Prince Albert,” Krivokrasov said after the game.
“Obviously the support that I got from a lot of people here meant a lot to me, so it’s been nice to see some familiar faces again.”
After stints in the USHL and the NAHL last year with the Omaha Lancers and the Corpus Christi IceRays, Krivokrasov started out the 2019-20 campaign with the Tri-City Americans before being dealt to the Cougars in November.
The 19-year-old, who had three goals with the Raiders, has 10 points in 27 games this year.
Friday’s win for the Raiders, who snapped a four-game losing skid at the Art Hauser Centre in the process, moved them one point ahead of the idle Winnipeg Ice for first place in the East Division standings.
The Cougars, who have lost both games of their East Division road trip after regulation time, are eight points back of the Seattle Thunderbirds for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference ahead of a meeting with the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday.
Hooker and defender Majid Kaddoura made their debuts for the Cougars after being acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Saskatoon Blades a day earlier.
Blueliner Jack Sanders recorded an assist in the loss as he extended his point streak to a career high five games.
Daniil Stepanov was the lone scratch for the Raiders, while the Cougars did not dress Keaton Dowhaniuk, Davin Griffin and Ilijah Colina.
- Brandon 2 Red Deer 1 (Jiri Patera – 41 Saves)
- Lethbridge 4 Calgary 2 (Noah Boyko – One Goal and One Assist)
- Kamloops 4 Kelowna 1 (Connor Zary – Two Goals)
- Medicine Hat 5 Moose Jaw 2 (Brett Kemp – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Saskatoon 2 Edmonton 1 (Colton Dach Shootout Winner – Koen MacInnes – 36 Saves)
- Spokane 3 Vancouver 1 (Lukas Parik – 41 Saves)
- Seattle 8 Tri-City 5 (Jared Davidson – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Victoria 2 Portland 1 (Brayden Tracey Overtime Winner – Shane Farkas – 42 Saves)
- Medicine Hat vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
- Edmonton vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
- Prince George vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
- Red Deer vs. Winnipeg – 7:30 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
- Everett vs. Seattle – 8 p.m.
- Spokane vs. Vancouver – 9 p.m.
- Kamloops vs. Kelowna – 9 p.m.
- Regina vs. Tri-City – 9 p.m.
- Portland vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.