Iginla’s late goal lifts Rockets past Raiders

Herald file photo.

The Prince Albert Raiders finished out the unofficial first half of the WHL campaign with a 4-3 loss to the Kelowna Rockets at the Art Hauser Centre

Head coach Jeff Truitt says the end result was disappointing, but was happy with the effort he got from his hockey club.

“We battled.  I thought the first period, we really managed the puck real well. I thought that there wasn’t a lot of turnovers on our part. I thought that we managed things. In the second period, it was a bit of a battle. Temperature went up a little bit, which is good. Both teams obviously weren’t going to budge. Third period, the disappointing part about it was we battled back after they were up. We tied this thing up and we had a call that the puck wasn’t covered. Disappointing for sure because we battled back to three three and could have got a point, but we didn’t.”

Max Graham would open the scoring for the Kelowna Rockets at the 9:49 mark of the first period. The 19-year-old forward tipped a pass from Tij Iginla past Max Hildebrand for his sixth goal of the season. Hiroki Gojsic also assisted on the play.

Shots were tied at 7-7 after the first period.

Prince Albert would strike back just 3:44 into the second period.

Oli Chenier would bury his third goal of the season to knot the score at 1-1. The goal was the unassisted variety.

Kelowna would regain the lead at the 10:00 mark. Marcus Pacheco would strike for his second goal of the season. Tij Iginla and Andrew Cristall provided the assists.

After a tripping call against Kelowna’s Luke Schelter, the Raider power play would go to work against the worst penalty kill unit in the WHL.

Justice Christensen would step into a wrist shot from the point for his seventh goal of the season at the 13:58 mark. Matej Kubiesa had the lone assist on the play.

Shots favored Prince Albert 18-16 after two periods of play.

Ethan Neutens would restore the Kelowna lead at the 4:42 mark of the third period. Trae Johnson and John Babcock provided the helpers on the play.

Krzysztof Macias would pull the Raiders even with his 13th goal of the season at the 17:19 mark of the third period. Sloan Stanick and Eric Johnston assisted on the play.

Truitt gave a lot of credit to the Raider fans in attendance for helping the team get back into the game.

“They’re cheering us on and appreciating the effort and got really excited when we tied that up. Then the emotion comes when they score. They always have our back. They always cheer for our guys. The (Raider) faithful are there for us. It’s just too bad that we leave this one with the loss here tonight, but you certainly got to give our fans a lot of credit for the motivation that they bring us.”

Tij Iginla would break the hearts of the Art Hauser Centre faithful as he would strike for his 24th goal of the season with 21.7 seconds left in regulation to give the Rockets a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.

Jari Kykkanen made 20 saves to earn the win for Kelowna. Max Hildebrand made 21 stops for Prince Albert.

The Raiders are now off for the holiday break and return to action on December 27 when they travel to take on the Saskatoon Blades at the SaskTel Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m.