Raiders edge Wheat Kings for their fourth straight win

Photo Courtesy of Perry Bergson/The Brandon Sun Brandon Wheat Kings forward Luka Burzan fires a shot at Prince Albert Raiders goalie Max Paddock during Western Hockey League action at Westoba Place on Saturday night.

A night after they clinched a spot in the 2020 Western Hockey League playoffs, the Prince Albert Raiders picked up two more key points in the battle for first place in the East Division.

Thanks to a 2-1 win over the host Brandon Wheat Kings, which was the fourth in a row for the defending WHL champions, the Raiders now own a four-point cushion over a Winnipeg Ice side who are back in action on Tuesday afternoon in Edmonton.

“I really liked our guys’ mindset tonight,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said after the contest at Westoba Place.

“We played a good solid game and the guys were really attached to what was happening out there. It was awesome to see.”

Like their meeting a week earlier at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders and Wheat Kings’ latest encounter had a playoff-like feel to it and an extra bit of drama.

Luka Burzan appeared to have tied things up at two on the power play with 4:10 to go in regulation, but it was shown after a video review that he kicked the puck in while he was in the blue paint.

Ozzy Wiesblatt had a goal and an assist each for the 32-16-5-4 Raiders, while Aliaskei Protas dished out a pair of helpers.

Ilya Usau also found the back of the net and Max Paddock made 19 saves for the visitors, who went five-for-five on the penalty kill.

“The guys were working hard, they were anticipating and they were pressuring,” Habscheid said of the Raiders’ shorthanded unit.

“You can see that everyone is starting to wind it up here ahead of the playoffs, which is good to see.”

Prince Albert’s Braden Schneider had the lone goal for the 31-21-3-2 Wheat Kings as their two-game win streak came to an end on Saturday.

Jiri Patera stopped 28 shots for the hosts, who are two points back of the Ice for second place in the East Division ahead of a visit to Regina to face the Pats on Sunday.

Prior to their trip to Brandon, the Raiders officially clinched a playoff spot on Friday night thanks to a 6-3 Saskatoon Blades win over the Pats.

This marks the first time that the Raiders have clinched three straight post-season berths since a run that lasted from 1995 to 1997.

“The scouts and (general manager) Curtis (Hunt) do a great job of bringing in good players, which is important,” Habscheid said.

“However, we’re not happy about just being a playoff team anymore. The bar has been raised.”

The Raiders are now off until next Friday night when they’ll travel to the SaskTel Centre for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Blades.

The two sides will square off again on Saturday in Prince Albert.

Post-Game Notes

The Raiders now own a 3-1 advantage in the season series with the Wheat Kings, with their last two meetings slated for Friday, March 6 in Prince Albert and Saturday, March 7 in Brandon.

Ilya Usau’s second period goal allowed the rookie to extend his point streak to a season-best six straight contests, while Ozzy Wiesblatt’s two-point night allowed him to extend his run of form to five games in a row.

Michael Horon was the lone scratch for the Raiders, while the Wheat Kings scratched Nolan Ritchie, Marcus Kallionkieli and Rylan Thiessen.

Former Prince Albert Raiders forward Gage Quinney made his NHL debut on Saturday as he suited up for his hometown Vegas Golden Knights in their 5-3 home win over the Florida Panthers.

The 24-year-old, who had 31 points in 91 games for the Raiders before he was dealt to the Kelowna Rockets in December 2014, has 32 points in 42 games this season for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Everett 2 Vancouver 1 (Trent Miner – 33 Saves)
  • Calgary 6 Kamloops 4 (Jackson Van De Leest – Three Assists – Calgary clinches a playoff spot for the second straight season)
  • Spokane 2 Medicine Hat 1 (Leif Mattson – Two Goals)
  • Red Deer 7 Tri-City 5 (Chris Douglas – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Edmonton 2 Regina 1 (Josh Williams Overtime Winner – Dylan Guenther – Two Assists)
  • Saskatoon 8 Swift Current 1 (Aidan De La Gorgendiere – Four Assists)
  • Seattle 3 Portland 2 (Roddy Ross – 30 Saves)
  • Victoria 4 Kelowna 3 (Gary Haden Shootout Winner – Brayden Tracey – Two Goals)

Friday’s Scores

  • Brandon 5 Edmonton 2 (Braden Schneider – Three Assists)
  • Everett 4 Prince George 2 (Taylor Gauthier – 43 Saves)
  • Lethbridge 8 Moose Jaw 2 (Brett Davis – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Medicine Hat 4 Tri-City 2 (James Hamblin – Two Goals)
  • Portland 5 Seattle 3 (Seth Jarvis – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Saskatoon 6 Regina 3 (Riley McKay – One Goal and One Assist – Regina’s loss allows Medicine Hat to clinch a playoff spot for the fourth straight season)
  • Spokane 5 Swift Current 1 (Ty Smith – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Vancouver 6 Calgary 5 (Justin Sourdif – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Kelowna 3 Victoria 2 (Roman Basran – 34 Saves)

Wednesday’s Scores

  • Everett 6 Moose Jaw 0 (Ronan Seeley – Three Assists – Dustin Wolf – 10 Saves – Ninth Shutout This Season and 20th Career)
  • Spokane 6 Lethbridge 3 (Adam Beckman – Two Goals and Three Assists – Spokane clinches a playoff spot for the third straight season)
  • Tri-City 5 Swift Current 1 (Sasha Mutala – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Calgary 3 Victoria 2 (Orca Wiesblatt Shootout Winner – Mark Kastelic – Two Goals)
  • Edmonton 5 Winnipeg 0 (David Kope – Three Assists – Sebastian Cossa – 27 Saves – Fourth Shutout This Season)

Pre-Game Notes

The Blades have taken five out of six meetings over the Raiders this season, with their lone setback coming in a 1-0 contest on Sept. 21 in Saskatoon.

Following their convincing 8-1 showing against the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday, which was the club’s third win in a row, the 30-22-2-3 Blades are just two points behind the Wheat Kings in the East Division standings and have an 18-point cushion over the Red Deer Rebels for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Blueliner Scott Walford is enjoying an excellent overage campaign for the Blades as he’s tied with Calen Addison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for fifth place in defensive scoring with 48 points.

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Regina – 4 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Portland – 7 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Seattle – 7 p.m.

Tuesday’s Schedule

  • Winnipeg vs. Edmonton – 12 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.

Wednesday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Tri-City – 9 p.m.

Thursday’s Schedule

  • Winnipeg vs. Calgary – 12 p.m.

Friday’s Schedule

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