Blades hand Raiders their third straight loss

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Justin Nachbaur controls the puck for the Prince Albert Raiders during the early stages of Friday's game against the Saskatoon Blades.

Some time away from the rink did not result in a reversal of fortunes for the Prince Albert Raiders.

Despite holding a 34-15 edge in shots, the Raiders suffered their third straight loss and their second in a row to the Saskatoon Blades on Friday night as they dropped a 3-2 decision in their return to the Art Hauser Centre after the Christmas break.

“We were the better team tonight but we didn’t get the win,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“That happens sometimes. Their goalie (Nolan Maier) played well and I didn’t like any of the three goals that we allowed.”

It was a tough evening for Raiders netminder Boston Bilous as he allowed three or more goals for the third straight game.

“He’s probably not feeling it right now and he hasn’t for a bit,” Habscheid said.

“We need him to stop pucks and it’s not like he isn’t trying, but that’s sometimes how it goes. When you are in that position and the red light goes on behind you, it’s a bit different than when you are a forward or a defenceman and it’s not as noticeable.”

At the other end of the ice, the Raiders received an added boost as they welcomed back Aliaksei Protas and Ilya Usau to the lineup after their stints with Belarus at the Division I World Juniors earlier this month.

“We got those two back but we’re still without one guy (overage forward Brayden Watts, who was unable to travel out of Northern California due to a freak snowstorm),” Habscheid said. “Hopefully we’ll get him back in the lineup tomorrow.

“I thought we generated a lot on offence and we had a lot of zone time, but they (the Blades) were able to hang around.”

Friday’s win for the 16-15-1-2 Blades, which was their fourth in five meetings with the Raiders this year, also allowed the club to move back above .500.

“We’re just trying to find some consistency here,” Blades overage forward Riley McKay said.

“We know we can beat the best teams in the league and we got two big wins over Prince Albert here lately, but now we just need to do the things that we do well on a regular basis.”

McKay had a pair of goals in the triumph, while Chase Wouters dished out a pair of helpers.

Colton Dach also found the back of the net for the visitors, who received a 32-save showing from Maier.

“He was the difference tonight for sure,” Habscheid said of the Blades’ netminder. “He made the saves when they needed him to and he was the key for them to get the two points.”

Protas had a goal and assist for the 20-10-3-1 Raiders, who now have a three-point lead over the Winnipeg Ice in the East Division.

Spencer Moe had the other marker for the hosts and Bilous stopped 12 shots.

The Raiders will complete their home-and-home series with the Blades on Saturday in a 7 p.m. contest at SaskTel Centre.

Post-Game Notes

One of the big talking points of the game came with 2:19 to go in the third period as Ozzy Wiesblatt was rocked by a check to the head from Blades forward Zach Huber.

Although the Raiders fans wanted Huber to get a five minute major on the play, the hosts did get a two-minute power play that they were unable to cash in on.

“We’ll see what the league does about it, but that was a dangerous hit,” Habscheid said. “We’re trying to protect players and the head was targeted on that play.”

After laying on the ice for a few moments, Wiesblatt skated back to the bench under his own power and returned to action during the power play.

Friday’s contest also saw Matthew Culling make his first appearance in a Raiders uniform after he was acquired from the Swift Current Broncos earlier in the day.

“He got here around four or five o’clock, so we just told him to get through the game and play smart,” Habscheid said. “He’s a good player and he’ll do fine for us.”

Cole Nagy, who was dealt to the Broncos as part of the deal, recorded two assists in his debut for his new club in their 4-3 shootout triumph over the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Aliaksei Protas’ two-point night allowed him to extend his point streak to a career-high 10 games, which is one game behind Eli Zummack of the Spokane Chiefs for the longest run of form in the WHL at the moment.

Tristen Robins increased his point streak to a career-high six games with an assist on Riley McKay’s game-winning goal.

Brayden Watts and Tyson Laventure did not dress for the Raiders, while the Blades scratched Radek Kucerik and Braden Plaschewsky.

Friday’s Scores

  • Winnipeg 4 Brandon 0 (Peyton Krebs – One Goal and Two Assists – Liam Hughes – 28 Saves – First Career Shutout)
  • Prince George 4 Everett 3 (Tyler Brennan – 35 Saves)
  • Kamloops 4 Kelowna 0 (Orrin Centazzo – One Goal and Three Assists – Dylan Garand – 25 Saves – Second Shutout This Season and Third Career)
  • Lethbridge 5 Calgary 4 (Dino Kambeitz Overtime Winner – Alex Thacker – Three Assists)
  • Regina 5 Moose Jaw 2 (Riley Krane – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Edmonton 2 Red Deer 1 (Sebastian Cossa – 30 Saves)
  • Seattle 8 Spokane 5 (Keltie Jeri-Leon – Two Goals and Three Assists)
  • Swift Current 4 Medicine Hat 3 (Sergei Alkhimov Shootout Winner – Aiden Bulych – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Portland 3 Tri-City 2 (Cross Hanas Overtime Winner – Seth Jarvis – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Vancouver 2 Victoria 1 (David Tendeck – 27 Saves)

Wednesday, Dec. 18 Scores

  • Everett 4 Tri-City 3 (Beck Warm – 38 Saves)
  • Vancouver 4 Kelowna 3 (Conner McDonald – Three Assists)
  • Spokane 3 Victoria 1 (Eli Zummack – Two Assists)

Tuesday, Dec. 17 Scores

  • Seattle 4 Tri-City 3 (Henrik Rybinski Overtime Winner – Conner Roulette – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Prince George 3 Vancouver 0 (Taylor Gauthier – 32 Saves – First Shutout This Season and Fourth Career)
  • Victoria 5 Spokane 4 (Carson Miller – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Brandon 4 Winnipeg 3 (Ben McCartney – One Goal and One Assist)

World Juniors Update

After a wild 6-4 triumph over the United States to start the 2020 World Juniors in the Czech Republic on Boxing Day, Canada enjoyed an off day Friday ahead of a Group B contest against Russia Saturday.

Alexis Lafreniere (Rimouski Oceanic) had a goal and three assists in Thursday’s victory, which also saw Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) score twice.

The Americans entered the win column Friday as Trevor Zegras (Boston Terriers) dished out four helpers in a 6-3 affair against Germany.

Thursday’s other Group B affair saw the Czech Republic pick up a 4-3 win over Russia in a contest that saw Winnipeg Ice forward Michal Teply record three assists.

Over in Group A, Slovakia started off their tournament on a winning note Friday as Samuel Hlavaj (Sherbrooke Phoenix) stopped 22 shots in a 3-1 contest against Kazakhstan.

Matthew Verboon (Colgate Raiders) scored twice for Switzerland on Thursday in their 5-3 win over Kazakhstan, while draft-eligible forward Alexander Holtz (Djurgardens) scored the overtime winner for Sweden in a 3-2 affair with Finland.

In addition to the Canada and Russia matchup, Saturday’s other contests will see Finland face Slovakia, Germany take on the Czech Republic and Switzerland square off with Sweden.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Moose Jaw vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
  • Brandon vs. Winnipeg – 7:30 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
  • Swift Current vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Seattle – 8 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Vancouver – 9 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.