It was a big night for the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
Not only did they snap a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 triumph over the Moose Jaw Warriors, but head coach Marc Habscheid moved into a tie with Ernie “Punch” McLean for sixth all-time in wins by a coach in the WHL with 548.
“Wow…I’m old,” Habscheid joked when he heard about his accomplishment.
“I thought we’ve been playing okay lately despite being down guys and we got one more bounce than the other team tonight. We’re getting better systematically and getting more consistent with our play with and without the puck, which helps a lot.”
The Raiders’ top line did the most damage on Saturday as Ozzy Wiesblatt potted a pair of goals and Reece Vitelli had a goal and an assist each.
With Spencer Moe out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, Logan Linklater moved up on the depth chart and recorded the first two assists of his WHL career.
“I was struggling a bit in the first couple of games, so to break through like I did tonight was a good feeling, especially with being able to help the team out,” Linklater said.
“Logan’s a really smart player that knows the ins and outs of the game,” Habscheid added. “I thought he played really well tonight and he was a big part of our top line.”
Eric Pearce continued his strong start to the season with a goal and an assist, as he banged home a rebound at the 1:53 mark of the third period to move his team in front for good.
“He’s a scoring machine right now,” Habscheid said. “We were laughing on the bench as in his last three goals, he should really have six points because he’s passed it to himself three times in a row. That’s probably a record some place.”
“I haven’t been scoring like this since my minor hockey days,” added Pearce, who has four goals in eight games thus far in the bubble. “I told Habby to send me out there by myself with all the times I’ve been passing it to myself here lately.”
Justin Nachbaur also scored for the 3-3-1-1 Raiders, who received a 16-save showing from Carter Serhyenko.
The 4-4 Warriors, who have lost their last three games, got their goals from Eric Alarie and Cade Hayes.
Rookie goaltender Brett Mirwald turned in a strong showing as he made 31 saves to keep the Warriors in the contest.
“The process was there and we were playing the way we want to play,” Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary said in a post-game press conference. “The difference was that the puck just didn’t go in the net for us.
“I still liked our game and it certainly wasn’t a 5-2 game. We were right there at the end.”
As the Raiders prepare for a Monday afternoon meeting with the 7-0-1-0 Saskatoon Blades, one of their big goals is to get more shots on their opponents net.
“We’ve been getting five to seven shots in a period and that’s not enough, as we were getting around 15 to 20 shots in a period last year,” Pearce said.
“We’ve been getting better day by day though and hopefully that continues.”
Warriors captain Daemon Hunt received a five major penalty and a game misconduct in the latter stages of the third period for a hit to the head on Raiders forward Reece Vitelli, who remained in the game despite being shaken up on the play.
In what was his 200th career WHL regular season contest, Justin Nachbaur recorded his first career shorthanded goal as he converted a feed from Logan Linklater in the first period.
Carter Serhyenko recorded his first triumph of the season and the eighth of his WHL career on Saturday. Of those victories, four have come against Moose Jaw.
Kaiden Guhle, Spencer Moe, Terrell Goldsmith and Max Paddock did not dress for the Raiders, while the Warriors were without the services of Ryder Korczak, Cole Jordan, Riley Niven, Max Wanner and Bryden Kiesman.
Around the WHL
The Winnipeg Ice will be without the services of sophomore blueliner Carson Lambos for the rest of the season due to an unspecified medical condition that has kept him sidelined since March 17.
Lambos, who’s projected by many to be a first round pick at this year’s NHL Draft, suited up in two games for the Ice after spending the start of the campaign with the JYP Under-20 team in Finland, where he had 11 points in 13 contests.
- Saskatoon 7 Regina 3 (Aidan De La Gorgendiere – Four Assists)
- Everett 2 Portland 1 (Cole Fonstad Overtime Winner – Dustin Wolf – 35 Saves)
- Seattle 5 Spokane 0 (Conner Roulette – Two Goals and One Assist – Thomas Milic – 35 Saves – First Career Shutout)
- Edmonton 4 Calgary 3 (Jalen Luypen – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Medicine Hat 3 Lethbridge 0 (Lukas Svejkovsky – Two Goals – Garin Bjorklund – 22 Saves – Second Career Shutout)
- Swift Current 7 Winnipeg 4 (Mathew Ward – Four Assists)
- Kamloops 7 Vancouver 3 (Connor Zary – Three Assists)
- Kelowna 5 Victoria 0 (Alex Swetlikoff – Two Goals – Cole Schwebius – 19 Saves – Second Career Shutout)
- Edmonton 5 Calgary 2 (Jake Neighbours – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Seattle 3 Portland 2 (Jackson Berry – 28 Saves)
- Medicine Hat 6 Lethbridge 3 (Brett Kemp – One Goal and One Assist)
- Tri-City 3 Spokane 0 (Samuel Huo – Two Goals – Talyn Boyko – 26 Saves – First Career Shutout)
- Kamloops 5 Prince George 4 (Logan Stankoven – Two Goals)
The Blades took the first of four meetings with the Raiders on March 19 as they came away with a 3-1 triumph to start their current five-game win streak.
That is the longest run of form for the Blades since they won seven straight games in a span that lasted from Feb. 26 to March 15, 2019.
That streak was snapped by the Raiders as they picked up a 3-1 victory at the Art Hauser Centre on March 16 in the final game of the regular season for both sides.
The Blades’ five straight wins also coincides with the point streaks that forwards Tristen Robins and Blake Stevenson are currently enjoying.
Third-year blueliner Aidan De La Gorgendiere has eight points in eight games thus far for the Blades, as he is tied for third in defensive scoring in the WHL with Eric Van Impe of the Medicine Hat Tigers and Ryker Evans of the Regina Pats.
Meanwhile, Blades forward Brandon Lisowsky has seven points to sit in a tie for third place among rookie scorers in the league with Tristan Zandee of the Calgary Hitmen and Winnipeg Ice teammates Zachary Benson and Connor Geekie.
- Brandon vs. Swift Current – 4 p.m.
- Calgary vs. Edmonton – 4 p.m.
- Tri-City vs. Everett – 5 p.m.
- Lethbridge vs. Medicine Hat – 6 p.m.
- Portland vs. Seattle – 6 p.m.
- Kelowna vs. Vancouver – 7 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Winnipeg – 8 p.m.
- Saskatoon vs. Prince Albert – 4 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Regina – 8 p.m.
- Prince George vs. Victoria – 8 p.m.