The Prince Albert Raiders finished with four out of a possible six points on a three game weekend road trip, downing the Calgary Hitmen 5-2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday.
Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says Prince Albert bent at times, but never broke.
“It was a good test, not only coming off the loss last night, but it’s a good test in a big building with a lot of stuff going on with Teddy Bear toss. We’re up and they’re pushing and we survived, or bent. We didn’t break, but overall, we got her done. It’s 30 games in and we’re continuing to get better. That’s what we need to do is continue to (get better), and we’re getting on the winning side of it.”
After a faceoff win, Easton Kovacs would fire a slapshot from the point that would beat Ethan Buenaventura for his third goal of the season at the 4:13 mark of the first period. Hayden Pakkala and Cole Peardon assisted on the play.
At the 9:14 mark, London Hoilett would send the teddy bears flying for the second consecutive year with his first goal of the season, putting a rebound past Max Hildebrand. Carter Yakemchuk had the lone assist on the play.
After a nearly 40 minute delay, the Raiders would restore the one goal advantage.
As a power play was expiring, Eric Johnston would lean into a slapshot from the right point that would beat Buenaventura for his fourth goal of the season. Aiden Oiring and Niall Crocker provided the helpers on the play.
Shots favored Calgary 18-11 after one period of play.
In the second period, the Raiders would bend, but not break.
Brayden Dube would double the Prince Albert lead on the power play at the 16:03 mark.
Hayden Pakkala would bat a puck out of mid-air near the Calgary crease right onto the tape of Dube’s stick who made no mistake for his ninth goal of the season. Pakkala and Terrell Goldsmith would receive helpers.
Terrell Goldsmith would increase the Prince Albert lead to three at the 18:32 mark.
The Arizona Coyotes prospect would tee up a slapshot from the point that would beat Buenaventura through traffic for his third goal of the campaign. Cole Peardon and Hayden Pakkala assisted on the play.
Calgary would strike back before the end of the frame as Oliver Tulk would strike for his team leading 16th goal of the season for the Hitmen with 23 seconds to go in the second period. Yakemchuk and Keets Fawcett assisted on the play.
The lone goal of the third period would go to the Raiders at the 9:14 mark of the third period as Sloan Stanick would bury his 10th goal of the season on the power play. Aiden Oiring and Justice Christensen assisted on the play.
The Raiders went two for four on the man advantage and successfully killed all three power plays the Hitmen had in the contest. On Saturday in Medicine Hat, special teams were a reason the Raiders fell 6-2 to the Tigers.
Truitt says the Raiders were happy with the adjustments they made.
“We changed more of a formation than anything. We made a minor personnel change, but it was just kind of a change of what we’re doing on our power play, the mentality and just some of the structured things that we didn’t think we were getting from the group and we made those changes tonight.”
Prince Albert has not lost a game when leading after forty minutes this season, posting a 14-0-0-0 record. The Raiders are 9-0-0-0 when leading after the first period as well.
Truitt says he gives a lot of credit to the Raider leadership group for the team’s success.
“I think it’s just the mentality of it all, even our guys on the bench were talking about shutting it down. It’s simple. It’s tight to our checks. That’s our leadership group, and that’s our team. It’s filtered down to these kids over the last few months here, and they’re really gravitating to it. That’s what you need. Championship teams are made for playing defense and playing tight check hockey when you need to, and they’re doing it. “
Max Hildebrand made 42 saves to earn the victory in net and first star honors in the hockey game. Ethan Buenaventura made 24 stops for the Hitmen in the loss.
“He’s such a competitor and he rises to the occasion.” Truitt said about Hildebrand. “He’s gotten better and better over the last two years since the day he got here. He’s improved all the time. We’re seeing the pinnacle of his hard work and whatnot. His mental game is strong. He was determined here tonight because, obviously as a team, we didn’t like what happened last night. He certainly rose to the occasion tonight.”
The Raiders return home to face the Hitmen on Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m.