Americans stay perfect at home; dispatch Raiders

Tri-City Americans forward Sasha Mutala (34) forces Prince Albert Raiders goalie Ian Scott to make a save in WHL action from Washington State on Nov. 17, 2017. Doug Love/Tri-City Americans

The Pacific Northwest is a tough place for the Prince Albert Raiders to generate much offence.

They lost their second game in a row and third game overall while travelling through the United States after falling 4-1 to the Tri-City Americans in Western Hockey League action Friday night.

Tri-City is now a perfect 7-0 when playing at home.

The Raiders are on a six-game, 11-day road trip through British Columbia and the northwestern United Sates, during which they’re 2-3, with all three losses coming from American teams; they earned their two wins against Kootenay and Seattle.

Friday night saw Americans captain Michael Rasmussen score two early, second-period goals that would eventually prove to be the winners for his team.

“It was a slow start by us in the first period. We got it going in the second period, and kind of carried it on. It was a good win for us,” he said after the game.

The Americans and the Raiders played to a 0-0 draw after the first period, and the visiting team looked to be carrying momentum into the second frame; they led the shot count 15-14.

“They’re a hard team. They play the body well, and they clog up the neutral zone. So we weren’t taking care of the puck as good as we can be.”

It didn’t take long for the home team’s second period adjustments to yield results.

Rasmussen scored at 5:06 on a busted wrap-around attempt, making it 1-0. Juuso Välimäki and Kyle Olson assisted.

Just over three minutes later, the Detroit Red Wings’ first round draft pick scored again with help from Dakota Krebs and Dan Gatenby. It would prove to be the game winner for the Americans.

“We just managed the puck better and got it through the neutral zone into their end,” Rasmussen said of the adjustments.

“I thought we did a good job of that, and it’s something we’ve got to work on.”

The Raiders entered Friday’s game coming off of a 2-0 shutout loss to Everett on Wednesday, during which they took nine penalties and mustered just four shots in the third period.

In that regard, the Friday night game was a marked improvement, according to Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid.

“I liked a lot about our game. I thought our guys didn’t give (Tri-City) a lot of space, and we kept them out of the neutral zone.”

“We stayed out of the penalty box.”

Prince Albert was penalized seven times, but only four of those resulted in man-advantage situations for Tri-City.

The Raiders bench boss also said his team didn’t give up and they remained focused.

“That’s the one thing our guys do is work hard.”

Prince Albert has now played four-straight American teams over the past week – Portland, Seattle, Everett and Tri-City. Against Portland, Everett and Tri-City, they’ve managed only two total goals to their opponents’ combined 12 goals.

The Seattle game is the exception among the four – the Raiders won it 6-4.

Stagnant offence or not, Habscheid took a big-picture, optimistic approach to the team’s current stretch of games: “We’re back to 0.500 with a win tomorrow night in Spokane – that’s a good outcome for a road trip like this.”

Meanwhile, the Americans are on an upswing of late: They’ve won eight of their last 11 games going back a month to Oct. 17.

The team’s captain chalked it up to its balanced style of physical and offensive play, along with contributions from everyone.

“I think we’ve done a good job using our depth. (Lines) one through four, we’re doing a good job and playing as a team.

“It’s fun when everyone helps out, and it’s good.”

The Americans (13-5-2-0) will test their home record again when they host the Victoria Royals (15-7-1-0) on Saturday evening.

The Raiders (9-9-3-0) will now travel to Spokane to play the Chiefs (10-8-1-2) on Saturday evening. Game time is 9:05 p.m. CST.

NOTES: Välimäki and Morgan Geekie also scored for Tri-City, while Brett Clayton and Sasha Mutala assisted … Parker Kelly scored the lone goal for the Raiders, tipping in a shot from Cole Fonstad while on the powerplay.