Raiders cruise past Broncos

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt is shoved from behind by Swift Current Broncos blueliner Kaleb Bulych.

Friday’s Western Hockey League matchup between the Prince Albert Raiders and the Swift Current Broncos showed the current gap between the two sides in their respective cycles.

The defending WHL champions came out of the gates strong and never looked back against the club that currently resides at the bottom of the league table as the home team cruised to a 5-0 win at the Art Hauser Centre.

“It’s always great any time that you can hold a team to under 15 shots in a game,” Raiders captain Zack Hayes said. “We played a lot in their zone, which helped us out a ton. We were belligerent on the puck and finishing strong with the body on their defence, which made it tough for them to make plays.

“You don’t want to look past games like this as we’re trying to build towards those four-point games like the one we have tomorrow against Brandon.”

Friday’s matchup has been the usual outcome for the Raiders against the Broncos lately, as they are currently enjoying a 10-game win streak over their provincial rivals.

“It was 5-0 and it could have been worse,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“I’m glad that we scored some goals, but they are at a different stage of their development than we are. It was a tough game to watch.”

Aliaksei Protas led the way for the home side with a goal and two assists, while Ozzy Wiesblatt dished out two helpers and Ilya Usau recorded a goal and an assist.

Brayden Watts, Michael Horon and Matthew Culling also scored for the Raiders, who improved to 29-16-5-4 and snapped a two-game losing streak.

Max Paddock stopped all 13 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season and his second in a Raiders uniform.

The 10-38-1-3 Broncos, who have lost seven straight games, received a 25-save performance from Isaac Poulter.

The Raiders, who are again two points up on the Winnipeg Ice for first place in the East Division, will return to action tomorrow night at 7 p.m. against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

“Those games that we’ve had lately against the Central Division teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat) are basically like divisional games,” Hayes said.

“They have that same energy and there’s a chance that we could be facing them in the playoffs. You always want to set the tone in the regular season and put some doubt in the other teams’ minds when you get to the post-season.”

Post-Game Notes

Friday’s win marked the first time that the Raiders had won all of their regular season meetings with the Broncos in the WHL’s Internet Era, which dates back to the 1996-97 season.

The Broncos won all eight meetings with against the Raiders in 2006-07 and prevailed in all six matchups in 1997-98.

Tyson Laventure recorded his first career WHL assist in the opening frame on Michael Horon’s goal that gave the hosts a 1-0 advantage.

With his fourth clean sheet of the season, Max Paddock has moved into a tie for third place in the league with Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers and Joel Hofer of the Portland Winterhawks.

Daniil Stepanov was the lone scratch for the Raiders, while the Broncos did not dress Matthew Benson, Jordan Borysiuk, Raphael Pelletier and Cohner Saleski.

Broncos overage forward D-Jay Jerome made his final appearance at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday, as he’ll be aging out of the WHL at the end of the season.

The 20-year-old from Lethbridge has 11 points in 15 games for the Broncos, who acquired him on Jan. 9 after he was waived by his hometown Hurricanes.

Friday’s Scores

  • Brandon 4 Saskatoon 2 (Jiri Patera – 36 Saves)
  • Regina 5 Edmonton 3 (Riley Krane – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Everett 2 Seattle 1 (Dustin Wolf – 25 Saves – Everett clinches a playoff spot for the 17th straight season)
  • Kamloops 5 Red Deer 3 (Orrin Centazzo – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Lethbridge 5 Winnipeg 4 (Dylan Cozens – Three Goals and One Assist – Second Hat Trick This Season and Third Career)
  • Portland 4 Spokane 1 (Seth Jarvis – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Tri-City 5 Moose Jaw 4 (Sasha Mutala – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Vancouver 5 Victoria 2 (Justin Sourdif – Two Goals and Two Assists)

Wednesday’s Scores

  • Calgary 8 Regina 1 (Mark Kastelic – Four Goals and One Assist – First Hat Trick This Season and Third Career)
  • Kelowna 8 Tri-City 3 (Pavel Novak – One Goal and Four Assists)
  • Brandon 5 Saskatoon 1 (Ridly Greig – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Spokane 2 Moose Jaw 1 (Eli Zummack Overtime Winner – Brock Gould – 57 Saves)
  • Winnipeg 8 Swift Current 3 (Peyton Krebs – Four Assists)
  • Vancouver 4 Red Deer 1 (Bowen Byram – One Goal and One Assist)

Tuesday’s Scores

  • Medicine Hat 7 Regina 0 (Ryan Chyzowski – Two Goals and One Assist – Mads Sogaard – 24 Saves – Third Shutout This Season and Sixth Career – Regina’s loss allows Edmonton to clinch a playoff spot for the second straight year)
  • Victoria 3 Red Deer 1 (Adam Evanoff – 37 Saves)

Sunday’s Scores

  • Lethbridge 6 Calgary 4 (Dylan Cozens – Three Assists)
  • Saskatoon 4 Moose Jaw 3 (Tristen Robins Overtime Winner – One Goal and Two Assists – Brock Gould – 44 Saves)
  • Seattle 2 Prince George 1 (Roddy Ross – 33 Saves)
  • Spokane 5 Everett 3 (Filip Kral – Three Assists)
  • Vancouver 7 Kamloops 3 (Tyler Preziuso – Two Goals and Two Assists)

Pre-Game Notes

Saturday’s contest at the Art Hauser Centre is the third meeting of the campaign between the East Division sides.

The Raiders prevailed in a 6-3 encounter in Prince Albert on Nov. 8, but the Wheat Kings returned the favour on Jan. 3 in a 1-0 contest in Brandon.

Following two wins over the last three days against the Saskatoon Blades, the 29-19-3-2 Wheat Kings are in third place in the East Division and are just four points back of the first place Raiders.

Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Jiri Patera is enjoying an excellent overage campaign as his five shutouts are the second most in the league, his 20 wins have fourth among all netminders and is tied with Hofer, Garand, Sebastian Cossa of the Edmonton Oil Kings and David Tendeck of the Vancouver Giants for the third best save percentage with a .922 mark.

Prince Albert’s Braden Schneider has a career high 34 points in 50 games this year, which is second among all blueliners on the team.

Rookie forward Nolan Ritchie has been sidelined since Nov. 22 with a lower body injury and is out indefinitely according to the WHL’s Weekly Report.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
  • Winnipeg vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Seattle – 8 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Everett – 9 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Kelowna – 9 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Tri-City – 9 p.m.