Hildebrand shines as Raiders top Central leading Rebels

Photo by Nathan Reiter. Raider goaltender Max Hildebrand in the crease during WHL action against the Red Deer Rebels on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023

Max Hildebrand put the Prince Albert Raiders on his back on route to a 2-1 Raider victory over the Central Division leading Red Deer Rebels on Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says that Prince Albert knew what they were in for against a tough Red Deer club.

“We grinded it out. We knew it was going to be a hard game, they are a  high pressure team. We had to not only work against their pressure but their physicality. I thought that we did a good job on both. I thought we did a good job with our energy level. Credit to our guys for grinding out a hard game.”

The visiting Rebels applied plenty of pressure and got three opportunities on the man advantage in the first twenty minutes.

Truitt says the Raiders will review the game tape to look back at those early penalties, but he does not want to tamper on the team’s strong effort.

“They got three power plays, you don’t want to get down on the penalty kill count. Some of those penalties were just reaching out with their sticks rather than moving their feet. Something we can review but I’m not going to take away from our effort.”

Just seconds after their third power play opportunity of the night expired, Red Deer would open the scoring. Overager Jace Isley would rip home his 20th goal of the season at the 16:13 mark. Jace Weir and Jhett Larson would register the assists.

Ryder Ritchie would continue to have the hot hand for the Raiders as the 16-year-old would extend his point streak to seven consecutive contests with his 10th goal of the season coming at the 8:15 mark of the second period to tie the game at 1-1.

With a delayed penalty upcoming to Red Deer, the Raiders would take full advantage of the extra skater. Sloan Stanick would rip a point shot past Rebel goaltender Rhett Stoesser for his 11th goal of the season to give Prince Albert a 2-1 advantage at the 13:19 mark. Erik Johnston and Niall Crocker would be credited with assists.

Shots after forty minutes were in favour of the visiting Rebels 23-17.

The Stanick goal turned out to be all Max Hildebrand needed as he would turn aside 32 of 33 Rebel shots to earn the victory in net and first star honours in the hockey game.

Truitt says the performance in net was something the Raiders have been looking for.

“I thought he was outstanding. He made a couple great saves in the second period and on the penalty kills. He worked through traffic as they always have guys there. If we had a couple rebounds, our defenceman were there to get rid of it. We needed that out of our goaltending and we got it with Max here tonight.”

Hildebrand credits his teammates keeping the Rebel bodies away and giving him good sightlines.

“Guys were boxing out well here tonight. They let me see through traffic, which was good especially on the penalty kill.”

Another aspect of the Raiders was tested on Friday as blue line anchor Landon Kosior was unavailable and out of the lineup due to an upper body injury.

Truitt says the Raider blue line stepped up to the task without their top defenceman.

“They really clutched up, they kept the game simple and they were physical. Positionally, they were fine and made simple plays which we wanted to do. Try to keep that pressure away from [Hildebrand] as much as possible.  That group back there did a real good job without him here tonight.”

The Raiders return to action on Saturday night when they welcome the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 7pm.