Bad start haunts Raiders in loss to Moose Jaw

Reece Vitelli -- Herald file photo.

It took less than a minute for the Moose Jaw Warriors to take the lead against the Prince Albert Raiders on Friday and they never looked back.

The Raiders surrendered three first period goals—including two on the power play—in a 3-1 loss to Warriors at Mosaic Place.

“Not happy,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said when asked for his thoughts on Friday’s game. “Guys weren’t ready. They were mentally not ready to play or physically ready to play, and by the time they got ready to play the game was over.”

Captain Reece Vitelli had the lone goal of the game for the Raiders. Max Hildebrand got the start for Prince Albert in place of Tikhon Chaika, stopping 20 shots in a losing cause.

Maximus Wanner, Jagger Firkus and Daemon Hunt replied for the Warriors, who opened with two power play goals after Carson Latimer took a double minor for high-sticking 29 seconds into the game.

The Raiders rebounded to play two tough periods of hockey, outshooting Moose Jaw 24-23 on the night. Habscheid said they his team picked up their play as the game went on, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the bad start.

“We can’t afford (bad starts),” he said. “We are running out of games. We are trying to make the playoffs here and that penalty was terrible penalty, a careless penalty, and a preventable penalty. We just can’t have those.”

Wanner struck first for Moose Jaw just 43 seconds into the opening frame. The Warriors defenceman pounced on a rebound following a Daemon Hunt point shot and snapped the puck past Hildebrand to make it 1-0.

Firkus made it 2-0 just over a minute later when he beat Hildebrand short side after working a nice give-and-go with Eric Alarie.

The Warriors extended their lead again just past the halfway mark thanks to Daemon Hunt. The Minnesota Wild third-round pick snuck in behind the Raiders defence and deflected a Jagger Firkus shot into the net.

The two teams played a scoreless second period before Vitelli got Prince Albert on the board with 6:39 left to play. The Raider captain’s wrist shot deflected off a Moose Jaw defenceman and past Warrior goalie Carl Tetachuk.

Tetachuk would stop 23 of 24 shots he faced to earn the win.

The loss drops the Raiders to 16-25-1-1 on the season. They now sit last in the WHL’s East Division thanks to the Regina Pats, who jumped two points ahead by beating the Calgary Hitmen 5-0 at the Brandt Centre.

Prince Albert is back in action on Saturday when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Puck drop is 7 p.m.