Late third period surge leads Raiders to crucial win over Wheat Kings

Herald file photo.

A pair of goals less than a minute apart late in the third period lifted the Prince Albert Raiders to a 2-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings at Westoba Place on Friday night.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says Prince Albert had chances to score early, but battled to earn the two points.

“We had some chances, a couple of looks and two on one that we didn’t capitalize on. You think, well, this could be a long one, and it was, You take a look at 0-0 after two and it’s a road game and you’re kind of thinking, okay we’re in it. 

We’re down 1-0, under five minutes left, and it’s kind of like it was a doomsday, but our guys are really good. We got the one goal and then a face off play gets us the winner. Again, it’s the characteristic of our team, we don’t give up.”

The first two periods were a defensive tug of war with neither team finding the back of the net.

The Raiders were the better team in the first period, outshooting the host Wheat Kings 11-4. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Carson Bjarnason made several key stops to keep the game scoreless.

The tides would shift in the second period as the Wheat Kings would outshoot the Raiders 10-4, but Max Hildebrand stood tall in the crease for Prince Albert.

Carter Klippenstein would finally break through for the Wheat Kings at the 16:10 mark of the third period with the game’s first goal. Luke Shipley had the lone assist.

Just 1:38 later, Ryder Ritchie would pick the perfect time to score his first goal since returning from injury as he would dart in and put a backhand shot past the sprawling pad of Bjarnason for his 14th goal of the season. Krzysztof Macias had the lone helper.

Ritchie’s 13th goal of the season came back on Dec. 8 against the Calgary Hitmen.

Less than a minute after the Ritchie goal, the Raiders would strike again. A Turner McMillen faceoff win in the offensive zone would lead to the puck ending up on the tape of Krzysztof Macias and the Polish Prince would make no mistake, rifling home his 20th goal of the season to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead with just 1:24 remaining in the third period. McMillen and Ritchie picked up the assists.

The trio of Macias, McMillen and Ritchie have been penciled together in the Raider lineup after Ritchie’s return from a lower body injury.

Truitt says he was pleased with the contributions from that line in victory.

“I like the impact they had on the game tonight in clutch times. It’s not always Stanick, Oiring and Crocker. We’re getting contributions from a number of lines in different ways. It’s just nice to see those guys get some goals tonight and get ready for a big one tomorrow.”

With the win, Prince Albert pulled within two points of the Wheat Kings for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. They remain three points ahead of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Lethbridge defeated Saskatoon by a 4-1 final score Friday night at the SaskTel Centre.

The Raiders welcome the Hurricanes to the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 p.m.