After an up-and-down stretch when the calendar turned to 2020, Aliaksei Protas has returned to his point-producing form for the Prince Albert Raiders during a three-game homestand.
Following a three-point showing against the Swift Current Broncos on Friday and a two-point performance a night later in a meeting with the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Washington Capitals prospect put home a pair of goals and dished out two helpers on Tuesday as the Raiders picked up a 5-2 victory over the Regina Pats.
“Our line (which includes Spencer Moe and Brayden Watts) had a little bit of a slump there for the last couple of months, but we worked through it together and hopefully we can keep things going,” Protas said.
“We’re just trying to play our game offensively. We have pretty good chemistry and we’re playing good right now.”
In addition to putting up nine points in his last three contests, Protas now has 70 points in 50 games in his sophomore campaign and is tied for seventh in league scoring with Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers.
“Everyone has their roles out there and his role is to put points on the board,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “When you’re not doing it, everyone’s looking at you and it can be a tough position to be in.
“When he wasn’t scoring, he was worried about a few different things that he probably shouldn’t be worried about…but he wanted to do things the right way. He’s a really good kid. He wants to learn and he’s going to be a good pro.”
Ozzy Wiesblatt had a goal and two assists for the 31-16-5-4 Raiders, who got a goal and an assist each from Moe and Ilya Usau on their way to a third straight triumph.
It was also a big night for netminder Max Paddock as he made 15 saves in his first encounter with the Pats since he was traded to the Raiders on Jan. 9.
“It was a bit of a weird feeling to face them as I’ve been practicing against some of those guys for the last four years and they know my spots pretty well,” Paddock joked.
“I’ve made some good memories and friendships with those guys so it was great to see them again, but it was a different experience to be playing against them.”
There was also a familiar face at the other end of the rink as former Raiders netminder Donovan Buskey turned aside 34 shots in his first trip back to the Art Hauser Centre since last January.
“He’s played so well for us in the last 15 or so games,” Pats head coach and assistant general manager Dave Struch said of Buskey, who started the season with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters.
“If you go back to the last two or three months, we’ve been a .500 team after a tough start and he’s played a huge part in that.”
Riley Krane and Kyle Walker both scored for the 19-30-3-2 Pats, who have lost their last two games and are 18 points back of the Saskatoon Blades for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“There was no quit in our game tonight and there never will be,” Struch said.
“We anticipated that we weren’t going to have the puck much against these guys and we weren’t going to quit when we had our opportunities. The result was a negative for us but our performance tonight was a positive and we can take a lot from it.”
The Raiders, who are again two points up on the Winnipeg Ice in the East Division standings, will travel to Brandon on Saturday to face the Wheat Kings before a home-and-home series next weekend with the Blades.
“Every game that we play for the rest of the year is going to have that playoff feel to it,” Protas said. “We could play Brandon or Saskatoon in the playoffs and Regina is a team that’s still trying to get in.
“It’s all going to be tough games the rest of the way but we’re going to try our best in each one as we get ready for the playoffs.”
Prior to the Raiders’ trip to Brandon, the Ice will have a chance to tie them for the divisional lead on Wednesday if they can earn a win over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings.
Forward Jakob Brook, who the Pats acquired from the Raiders in the Max Paddock deal, did not dress for his new club on Tuesday but is close to making his debut for the side after undergoing knee surgery last month.
“His speed, leadership and work ethic is what stands out with him,” Struch said.
“He carries himself like a professional already as a young guy and we’re looking forward to having him in our lineup.”
Brook had nine points in 38 games at the time of the trade.
The Raiders won four out of their six meetings with the Pats this year as they won the season series over their East Division rivals for the second straight campaign.
Ilya Usau’s two-point night allowed him to extend his scoring streak to five games, which matches a run he was on from Oct. 5-19.
In addition to Brook, the Pats did not dress Carter Massier, Sloan Stanick and Cale Sanders on Tuesday, while Evan Herman was the lone scratch for the Raiders.
- Seattle 4 Moose Jaw 2 (Andrej Kukuca – Three Goals – Second Hat Trick This Season – Brock Gould – 49 Saves)
- Edmonton 5 Lethbridge 3 (Josh Williams – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
- Kamloops 7 Victoria 6 (Orrin Centazzo Overtime Winner – Kyrell Sopotyk – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
- Calgary 6 Kelowna 5 (Josh Prokop Overtime Winner – Jett Woo – Three Assists)
- Winnipeg 4 Medicine Hat 2 (Isaac Johnson – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Red Deer 4 Prince George 2 (Jayden Grubbe – One Goal and One Assist)
- Brandon 2 Regina 1 (Ethan Kruger – 25 Saves – Regina’s loss allows Lethbridge to clinch a playoff spot for the fifth straight season)
- Vancouver 3 Seattle 2 (Eric Florchuk – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Portland 11 Moose Jaw 2 (Seth Jarvis – One Goal and Four Assists – Reece Newkirk – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
Around the WHL
Kamloops Blazers forward Ryley Appelt was given an eight-game suspension by the WHL on Tuesday as the result of a checking from behind major penalty and a game misconduct penalty that he received for a hit on defenceman Jacob Herauf of the Victoria Royals on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Appelt, who is in his third full season with the Blazers, has been suspended on three occasions in his WHL career.
Meanwhile, Kelowna Rockets captain Nolan Foote had his National Hockey League rights dealt on Sunday as the Tampa Bay Lightning traded him and the Vancouver Canucks’ first round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Blake Coleman.
The 19-year-old forward, who was the 27th overall pick by the Lightning last June, has 33 points in 27 games for the Rockets and had five points for Canada in their run to the gold medal at the World Juniors in January.
Tyson Jugnauth, who was the 21st overall pick by the Swift Current Broncos in 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, has signed a contract to play with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors next season.
The 15-year-old blueliner has 28 points in 30 games this year for the Okanagan Rockets midget program and has made three appearances for the Warriors.
The Raiders have won two out of their three meetings with the Wheat Kings this season, including a 4-1 home triumph last Saturday.
Heading into a Friday night contest at Westoba Place against the Oil Kings, Brandon has a 30-20-3-2 record and is in third place in the East Division.
Nolan Ritchie is the only long-term injury for the Wheat Kings as he’s been sidelined with a lower-body injury since November.
- Tri-City vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
- Edmonton vs. Winnipeg – 7 p.m.
- Spokane vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Everett – 9 p.m.
- Calgary vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.
- Saskatoon vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
- Spokane vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
- Edmonton vs. Brandon – 7:30 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
- Tri-City vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
- Seattle vs. Portland – 9 p.m.
- Kelowna vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.
- Calgary vs. Vancouver – 9:30 p.m.
- Prince George vs. Everett – 9:30 p.m.
- Edmonton vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
- Prince Albert vs. Brandon – 7:30 p.m.
- Portland vs. Seattle – 8 p.m.
- Spokane vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
- Vancouver vs. Everett – 9 p.m.
- Calgary vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
- Tri-City vs. Red Deer – 9 p.m.
- Kelowna vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.