The Prince Albert Raiders saw a four-game win streak come to an end in Saskatoon on Friday.
A night later, the Raiders returned the favour to the archrival Saskatoon Blades.
After firing 27 shots on goal in the opening frame and taking a 2-0 lead in the process, the defending Western Hockey League champions cruised to a 3-0 triumph at the Art Hauser Centre and ended the Blades’ four game run of form in the process.
“We’re a pretty good team when we work hard and play hard,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “That was the difference tonight.
“We want our guys to try their hardest and compete every night. That’s non-negotiable. I hated the way that our top guys worked last night and they were a lot better today.”
Justin Nachbaur led the way for the Raiders with a goal and an assist, as he tipped in a Landon Kosior shot late in the first period and made a great feed to set up Daniil Stepanov’s marker in the second stanza.
“This was a good bounce-back game for our team,” Nachbaur said. “Everyone chipped in to help us win, and when we work hard, we can play well against anyone.
“Our first period was really good tonight. We just wanted to pepper them with shots right off the hop.”
Kaiden Guhle had the other goal for the hosts, who received a 18-save showing from Max Paddock.
Paddock, who has three shutouts with the Raiders since he was acquired from the Regina Pats in January, is now tied with Brandon’s Jiri Patera for the second most shutouts in the WHL this season with five.
“Our best players were our best players tonight,” Paddock said.
“A few of us weren’t good last night, myself included. We didn’t give them any time and space, which I think was one of the biggest differences compared to the game in Saskatoon. We were in their face all game long.”
Things could have been even worse for the 31-23-2-3 Blades if it wasn’t for the play of netminder Nolan Maier, as he turned aside 40 shots and made a number of highlight reel saves.
The 33-17-5-4 Raiders, who remain one point ahead of the Brandon Wheat Kings for first place in the East Division, will be back in action Sunday for a 6 p.m. matchup with the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Raiders were without the services of forward Matthew Culling for Saturday’s game after he left Friday’s contest in Saskatoon following a hit by Blades blueliner Rhett Rhinehart during the first period.
“He’s week-to-week,” Habscheid said. “We’ve been fortunate so far (with injuries) and it’s too bad that we’ve lost a guy like him.
“He’s played a big role in our top six and he kills penalties. Matt’s a great kid, but it’s next man up right now.”
The Raiders’ 27-shot outburst in the first period was one off the team record of 28, which was set in a meeting with the Brandon Wheat Kings on March 14, 1990.
Ilya Usau and Ozzy Wiesblatt both recorded assists in Saturday’s win, which allowed them to extend their point streaks to eight and seven games respectively.
Wiesblatt’s run of form is the longest of his WHL career, as he had a pair of six-game streaks earlier this season.
Blades blueliner Scott Walford was held without a point on Saturday and saw his five-game point streak come to an end.
Saturday’s triumph was the Raiders’ second in eight meetings with the Blades this season and was their first over their rivals at the Art Hauser Centre since Game 5 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinal.
Matthew Sanders and Randen Schmidt did not dress for the visitors.
Leap Day Stats
Saturday’s game marked the first time that the Raiders had played on Leap Day since 2012.
Here is how the club has faired on Feb. 29 contests in the league’s Internet Era.
- 2004 – Moose Jaw 1 Prince Albert 0 (at Art Hauser Centre – Mike Brodeur – 28 Saves)
- 2008 – Prince Albert 4 Kamloops 2 (at Art Hauser Centre – Ryan McDonald – One Goal and Two Assists)
- 2012 – Lethbridge 4 Prince Albert 3 (at Art Hauser Centre – Philip Tot Shootout Winner – Anthony Bardaro – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Everett 4 Kelowna 1 (Ethan Regnier – Two Goals)
- Kamloops 6 Prince George 3 (Connor Zary – Two Assists)
- Brandon 4 Lethbridge 3 (Dylan Cozens – Three Goals – Third Hat Trick This Season and Sixth Career)
- Medicine Hat 2 Regina 0 (Mads Sogaard – 18 Saves – Fourth Shutout This Season and Seventh Career)
- Edmonton 4 Red Deer 0 (Beck Warm – 26 Saves – Third Shutout This Season and Fifth Career – Red Deer’s loss allows Winnipeg to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2015 when the club was based in Cranbrook)
- Portland 6 Seattle 3 (Seth Jarvis – Three Goals – Second Hat Trick This Season)
- Spokane 4 Tri-City 3 (Brad Ginnell Shootout Winner – Talyn Boyko – 54 Saves)
- Moose Jaw 4 Swift Current 2 (Eric Alarie – Two Assists)
- Vancouver 6 Victoria 2 (Bowen Byram – Three Assists)
The Raiders have won all three meetings with the Warriors this season, with their last triumph coming in a 5-1 contest at Mosaic Place on Dec. 7, 2019.
The 14-39-4-0 Warriors, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2015, are currently in fifth place in the East Division and are coming off a pair of wins this weekend against the Swift Current Broncos.
Although they will be without forwards Owen Hardy and Bryden Kiesman due to injuries, the Warriors have welcomed back blueliners Daemon Hunt and Cole Jordan back to their squad this week after long absences.
After being acquired from the Raiders on Jan. 7, goaltender Boston Bilous has posted a 2-8 record with a 4.39 goals against average and an .888 save percentage.
- Lethbridge vs. Calgary – 5 p.m.
- Vancouver vs. Victoria – 5 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Prince Albert – 6 p.m.
- Portland vs. Everett – 6 p.m.