Armstrong hat trick lifts Blades past Raiders in Game 3

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald. Harrison Lodewyk of the Prince Albert Raiders takes a face-off against Saskatoon's Lukas Hansen during WHL playoff action at the Art Hauser Centre on Tuesday night.

The Saskatoon Blades have taken their first lead of the series, thanks to an Easton Armstrong overtime winner as they defeated the Prince Albert Raiders 4-3 at the Art Hauser Centre on Tuesday.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says it took a while for Prince Albert to settle into the game.

“It sure looked that way. We want to come up with some energy. We want to come up with a lot of compete. It did show a little bit at the time, but then I thought once we settled in, I thought we were fine and we clawed back, but there were some early nerves, there’s no doubt.”

A strong start would get Saskatoon going as they would take a two goal lead into the dressing room after twenty minutes.

Armstrong would open the scoring for Saskatoon at the 5:53 mark of the opening frame. The Raiders would turn the puck over in the neutral zone and spring the 20-year-old on a partial breakaway and he would make no mistake for his second goal of the series.

Armstrong would be the benefactor of a Raider turnover in the defensive zone at the 9:03 mark with his second of the night.

Shots favored Saskatoon 16-4 after the opening twenty minutes.

The Raiders would spring to life in the second period. Polish import Krzysztof Macias would get Prince Albert on the board with his first goal of the series just 2:51 into the middle frame. Sloan Stanick and Terrell Goldsmith assisted on the play.

A holding penalty against Saskatoon’s Nicholas Andrusiak would give the Raiders a crucial opportunity on the man advantage.

Ryder Ritchie would strike for his second power play tally of the series at the 11:52 mark to knot the score at 2-2. Sloan Stanick and Justice Christensen assisted on the play.

Trevor Wong would restore the Saskatoon lead with an unassisted goal at the 17:13 mark.

After pushing for the equalizer the entire third period, Aiden Oiring would find the back of the net with his second goal of the series at the 14:22 mark sending the Art Hauser Centre faithful into a frenzy. Ryder Ritchie picked up the lone helper.

“They’re loud, it’s a small building, but that just makes it a lot louder.” Oiring said about the crowd in his post-game interview. “They support us so much and they’re amazing.”

Truitt says he saw a lot of positives from the Raiders in the final stanza.

“I thought we were tremendous, we got down and they carried the play at times. But then so did we. I thought that we battled hard. I thought that once we got some shots through from the point, we had a little bit more of a shooting mentality. That’s what we need to do right now, any puck at the net is a good one.”

A Raider penalty would carry over into the overtime frame and Armstrong would secure the win for Saskatoon with his third goal of the night just twenty three seconds into the overtime frame.

So far through three games, the Raiders have hung right with the Blades, who finished as the top regular season team in the WHL.

Truitt says the Raiders are far from out of the series.

“Game one, we got our power play goals. Hilty was outstanding. Game two, their power play was good and both goaltenders were fine, but the defining moment (was) on their power plays. Tonight, they get up and it’s a little bit of a different scenario where we showed our character and coming back, we never quit.”

Saskatoon leads the best-of-seven series two games to one. Game 4 is on Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m.