When the Winnipeg ICE went up 3-0 in the second period, it seemed as though the best team in the Western Hockey League would ease their way to win number 22 on the season.
That was not the case, as the Prince Albert Raiders erased that deficit, scoring three straight goals in the second, and eventually completing the comeback, winning 4-3 in overtime, handing the ICE their first home loss of the season.
“We kept playing the right way,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said about the teams response after going down 3-0. “We got rewarded later, and I’m proud of them. They could have shut it down, but last time I checked, we’re still the defending champs. We play to win.”
Matthew Savoie scored the opening goal in the contest on a Winnipeg powerplay. He took a pass from Ben Zloty and wired a shot from the right circle and past Tikhon Chaika, making it 1-0 with 10:19 left in the first. Savoie added to his league lead in points, picking up his 39th in 23 games.
Winnipeg added one more in the opening period, as Conor Geekie made a nice move, cutting across the Raider crease, and tucking a forehand shot in, giving the ICE a 2-0 edge heading into the second period.
Mikey Milne was quick to make it a 3-0 game, as he and Jakin Smallwood led a 2 on 1 rush up the ice. Smallwood sent a cross crease pass to the tape of Milne, and he potted his 17th goal of the year. Milne only trails teammate Connor McClennon (19) for the league lead in goals.
Something must have clicked for the Raiders after giving up the third goal of the game, as the rest of the second period was shifted directly into their favour. They also got some help in the form of two Manitoba boys, Evan Herman and Reece Vitelli.
Herman, a native of The Pas, MB, brought Prince Albert to within two goals when Ozzy Wiesblatt sent him on a clean cut breakaway. Herman made no mistake, going backhand forehand and beating Daniel Hauser, making it a 3-1 contest, just under two minutes after Winnipeg scored.
Exactly one minute later, Keaton Sorenson and Reece Vitelli blasted down the ice on a 2-on-0 break. Sorenson sent a pretty pass over to Vitelli, and the Winnipeg product cashed in with his 8th goal of the season, pulling the Raiders right back into the game, making it just a 3-2 deficit.
The visitors found the equalizer at the 10:58 mark of the middle frame, as Landon Kosior placed a perfect shot past Hauser, tying the game at 3-3. The goal marked the first time Winnipeg has allowed a team to tie the game after leading by three goals all season.
The third period saw no scoring, and the game would need overtime to find a winner.
After killing off a huge 4 on 3 powerplay in the extra period, the Raiders were able to bring the puck up the ice and into the Winnipeg zone, led by Sloan Stanick. Stanick, another Manitoba boy, from Rapid City, MB, sealed the deal for Prince Albert, beating Hauser, sending the Raiders home with a gutsy 4-3 win.
“We played together tonight,” Habscheid said. “That’s what we preach and we’ve been getting some saves and that helps.”
The Raiders picked up a crucial four points over the weekend, after also beating the Wheat Kings in Brandon the night before.
“We’re a couple years removed from hanging our banner and getting our rings,” Habscheid added. “We don’t have many left from that (2019) team, but we have enough left. This group knows what it takes.”
Tikhon Chaika had another solid game in net for the Raiders, as he made 33 saves on 36 shots, picking up his second win in a row, after collecting his first WHL win on Saturday.
“He stopped the one he should’ve,” Habscheid said of the rookie netminder. “That’s all we ask. He keeps making the saves that he should, then he’ll play, simple.”
The Raiders (8-12-0-1) now have the week off before hosting Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats for the second time this season on Friday.