Ice overtake Raiders for first place in the East Division

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders defender Remy Aquilon watches on as Boston Bilous bats the puck away from Winnipeg Ice forward Isaac Johnson at the Art Hauser Centre Monday.

It’s been one of those stretches for the Prince Albert Raiders.

Despite outshooting the Winnipeg Ice by a 26-14 margin on Monday, the 20-12-3-1 Raiders dropped a 3-2 contest on home ice, as they are now on a five-game losing streak and are now one point back of the Ice for the top spot in the East Division.

“I liked a lot about our game tonight, I really did,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “It’s not like we’re playing poorly though, so we just have to keep the faith.

“We generated a lot of chances again but their goaltender (Liam Hughes) was really good. That’s hockey.”

Meanwhile, the 22-13-1-0 Ice are now on a three-game win streak and ended an eight-game losing streak to the Raiders that dated back to Nov. 29, 2017, when they were based in Cranbrook, B.C.

It was also their first victory in Prince Albert since Jan. 26, 2015, as they had lost their last 10 trips to the Art Hauser Centre.

“Our players were able to gut out a win in one of the toughest buildings to play in,” Ice head coach James Patrick said. “Their defence plays so well and it’s hard to create offence against them in their rink.

“We came in here with a shortened bench as we were without four guys and then we lost one of our defenceman (Nolan Orzeck) early on. We had a couple of our younger guys (Anson McMaster and Karter Prosofsky) playing some big minutes for us, but our players were competing as hard as they could under the circumstances.”

One of the key players for the Ice was overage netminder Liam Hughes, as he made 24 saves to improve his record to 7-2 since joining the club earlier this month.

“He’s been awesome since he came in,” Patrick said.

“We definitely had some breakdowns tonight but he was able to cover up those mistakes. He was deserving of the first star honours that he got.”

Connor McClennon potted a pair of goals for the Ice, while Owen Pederson had a goal and an assist each.

Rookie blueliner Carson Lambos also had a strong outing as he dished out a pair of helpers.

An all-Belarusian line led the way for the Raiders as Ilya Usau scored twice on plays that were set up by Aliaksei Protas and Daniil Stepanov.

“It’s pretty cool to play with them,” Usau said.

“Even though we’re playing good as a line, it’s not as fun as it can be because we’re not winning.”

Boston Bilous made 11 saves as he was saddled with his sixth straight loss.

The Raiders will now prepare for a four-game road swing, which will get underway on New Year’s Day against the Regina Pats in a 4 p.m. affair at the Brandt Centre.

“There are two things we can control, our attitude and our effort,” Raiders captain Zack Hayes said.

“Any time that we can do well with those parts of our game, our outcomes usually go well. We just need to make sure that we are prepared for that game on Wednesday.”

After a trip to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings on Friday night, the Raiders will square off with the Ice on Saturday and Sunday in Winnipeg.

They will return to the Art Hauser Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 7 for a meeting with the Red Deer Rebels.

Post-Game Notes

Prior to Monday, the Raiders had last lost five straight games during a stretch that lasted from Dec. 15, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2018.

Jakob Brook was not in the lineup for the Raiders as he served a one-game suspension for his checking from behind major penalty that he received for a hit on Saskatoon Blades blueliner Nolan Kneen in the first period of Saturday’s 6-3 contest at the SaskTel Centre.

Aliaksei Protas extended his point streak to 12 games on Monday, which has him tied with Eli Zummack of the Spokane Chiefs for the longest run of form in the league.

Connor McClennon’s two-goal night allowed him to increase his point streak to eight games, while linemate Owen Pederson has now recorded a point in his last six contests.

The status of Ice defender Nolan Orzeck was up in the air following the game, as he did not return following an early second period hit into the boards by Remy Aquilon.

Conor Geekie, who was the second overall pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, made the trip to Prince Albert for his fourth career WHL game.

The 15-year-old from Winnipeg, who is the brother of former Tri-City Americans star and current Charlotte Checkers forward Morgan, has 33 points in 24 games this year for the Manitoba Under-18 Hockey League’s Yellowhead Chiefs.

Michael Horon joined Brook as the scratches for the Raiders, while the Ice did not dress Jesse Makaj, Benjamin Zloty, Nino Kinder, Michael Milne, Brad Ginnell and Michal Teply.

Matthew Savoie, who was the first overall pick in May’s Bantam Draft, did not make the trip after he left Saturday’s game against the Brandon Wheat Kings after being on the receiving end of a hit by Marcus Sekundiak in the first period.

Monday’s Scores

  • Brandon 4 Regina 1 (Ben McCartney – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Calgary 5 Edmonton 3 (James Malm – Two Assists)
  • Victoria 4 Kamloops 1 (Tarun Fizer – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Kelowna 3 Prince George 2 (Liam Kindree Overtime Winner – Taylor Gauther – 30 Saves)
  • Red Deer 6 Everett 2 (Keaton Sorenson – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Lethbridge 3 Swift Current 1 (Justin Hall – Two Goals)

World Juniors Update

Following a disastrous 6-0 result against Russia on Saturday, Canada returned to the win column at the World Juniors on Monday.

Liam Foudy (London Knights), Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets) and Ty Dellandrea (Flint Firebirds) had a goal and an assist each as they helped Canada improve to 2-1 with a 4-1 victory over Germany (1-2) in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Jared McIsaac (Halifax Mooseheads) dished out a pair of helpers for Canada, who received a 19-save showing from Joel Hofer (Swift Current Broncos).

Canada was without the services of Joseph Veleno (Grand Rapids Griffins) and Alexis Lafreniere (Rimouski Oceanic) for the contest.

Veleno was serving a one-game suspension for headbutting a Russian player on Saturday, while Lafreniere’s status remains up in the air after he suffered a left knee injury in that game.

One-time Vancouver Giants forward Yannik Valenti had the lone goal for the Germans, who will conclude their round-robin slate on Tuesday against Russia (1-2).

Canada can finish in first place in Group B if they can beat the Czech Republic (1-1-1) on Tuesday.

If they lose to the tournament hosts, the United States (3-1) will clinch the top spot.

Cole Caufield (Wisconsin Badgers) helped the Americans finish the round-robin on a winning note on Monday with a 4-3 overtime triumph over the Czechs.

Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs) had a goal and an assist each for the United States, while Libor Zabransky (Moose Jaw Warriors) scored twice in a losing effort.

Kaliyev also scored twice on Sunday in a 3-1 victory over Russia.

Over in Group A, the only thing that’s known for sure is that Kazakhstan (0-4) will finish in fifth place and play in a best-of-three relegation series later this week against the bottom team in Group B.

Sweden (3-0) leads the pool with eight points, with the defending champions Finland (2-0-1) sitting one point back.

Sweden increased their round-robin win streak to 51 games on Monday with a 6-2 win over Kazakhstan, while Finland cruised to a 7-1 win triumph over the bottom seed in Group B on Sunday.

Switzerland (2-1) are in third place with six points and Slovakia (1-2) are in fourth spot with three points thanks to Switzerland’s 7-2 romp over Slovakia on Monday.

Sweden will face Slovakia and Finland will take on Switzerland on Tuesday in their final round-robin contests.

The quarter-final round will get underway on Thursday, with the gold medal contest slated for Sunday.

Pre-Game Notes

The Raiders have taken three out of four meetings with the Pats this year, but they lost their most recent encounter in a 4-3 shootout affair in Regina on Nov. 16.

After a 4-1 home loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Monday, the 10-19-3-1 Pats are in fifth place in the East Division standings and are 11 points back of the Wheat Kings for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Blueliners Tyson Feist and Makai Mitchell are both currently sidelined for the Pats as a result of upper body injuries.