The Swift Current Broncos broke open a tight game with three second period goals, including two in 11 seconds from Karson King, on route to a 6-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday.
Sloan Stanick, Evan Herman and Nolan Allan had the goals for a Prince Albert squad that came into the game looking distance themselves from the five-team pack chasing the last two Eastern Conference playoff spot. Instead, the Raiders left the Art Hauser Centre one point out of a playoff spot with 12 games left to play.
Coach Marc Habscheid didn’t mince words when asked about his team’s play.
“Tonight was a thud,” Habscheid said. “I thought we were ready, but their pucks found their way in and we made some just horrendous mistakes and they ended up in the net.”
Tihkon Chaika came into the game as the reigning WHL goalie of the week, but gave way to Max Hildebrand six minutes into the second after giving up four goals on 14 shots. Habscheid wasn’t impressed with Chaika’s play, but noted there was plenty of blame to go around, especially for the club’s veterans.
“It’s a 19 and 20-year-old league,” Habscheid said. “We need those guys to play, and we had some older guys who didn’t play worth a darn tonight, and haven’t played really well in a bit here. We need them. They’ve got to pick it up.”
The win over Prince Albert keeps Swift Current’s slim playoff hopes alive. They club sits in 11th place, one point behind Prince Albert and the Calgary Hitmen, who are tied for ninth. The Regina Pats hold down the final playoff spot with 51 points.
The Pats beat the Lethbridge Hurricanes 6-4 on Wednesday, while the Hitmen beat the Brandon Wheat Kings 5-2.
“These are four point games,” Raiders forward Evan Herman said afterwards. “It’s really tight in the standings. There’s not much more to say than that. Four points, that was a must win for us. When you let that one go, it’s even more of an uphill battle.
“Every time you lose it’s disappointing,” he added. “We talked about it quite a few times. These points are huge for us. That (loss) was a tough one.”
The Broncos opened the scoring nearly 13 minutes into the first period. Ty Hurley fired an innocent looking backhand at the Raider goal, but the rebound fell to defenceman Kayden Sadhra-Kang who wasted no time giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Sloan Stannick responded for the Raiders less than two minutes later. The Raiders fired multiple shots at the net during a goalmouth scramble, only to have most blocked or deflected. The puck fell to captain Reece Vitelli, who fed Stannick at the side of the goal, and the Raider forward fired a shot in to the upper half of the net.
Things got nasty afterwards, as Raider forward Hayden Pakkala hammered a Bronco player from behind into the boards, kicking off a small scrum. Pakkala received five minutes for checking from behind and a game misconduct, but the Raiders actually ended up on the powerplay after Bronco defenceman Sam McGinley and goaltender Isaac Poulter picked up minors.
The Raiders took full advantage of their 4-on-3 window, with Herman blasting one-timer past a sprawling Poulter, however, the Raider lead didn’t last long. Carter Stebbings scored unassisted with less than two minutes to play, knotting the game up at two.
The teams traded chances in the opening minutes of the second, but it was Swift Current who struck first. Karson King picked up a rebound following a blocked shot and beat Chaika to make it 3-2. King picked up his second of the night a few seconds later after Connor Hvidston’s shot missed the net but ricocheted back out in front to the Bronco forward, who made no mistake.
Matthew Ward made it 5-2 on the powerplay with 7:19 left in the period. Ward’s shot beat Max Hildebrand over the shoulder and clanged in off the crossbar less than 30 seconds into the man advantage.
The game remained 5-2 until late in the third when Nolan Allan beat Poulter with wrist shot over the shoulder. However, Swift Current secured the win thanks to an empty netter from Raphael Pelletier with 1:02 to play.
The Raiders are back on the ice this Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre against the Saskatoon Blades. Puck drop is 7 p.m.