Officiating a talking point after Rockets and Raiders game

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders blueliner Kaiden Guhle collides with Kelowna Rockets forward Jake Poole.

The 2,825 fans that were at the Art Hauser Centre made their opinions known throughout the late stages of Friday’s Western Hockey League contest as the Prince Albert Raiders had to kill eight penalties in a 2-1 loss to the Kelowna Rockets.

It was also something that head coach Marc Habscheid had an opinion on following the game.

“There were three soft calls and they (the officials) were talking to (Rockets head coach Adam Foote) him all night,” Habscheid said. “I’m not sure if they wanted his autograph as he’s a Stanley Cup champion or what, but it didn’t look good.

“They ran line changes and they were able to do whatever they wanted out there, which slowed the game down. Yeah, we lost and our guys are accountable, but that (the officiating) was not good and I’m glad the officiating supervisor (Kevin Muench) was here tonight.”

While the Raiders found themselves having to stop the Rockets on the man advantage more often than they thought had to, the defending Western Hockey League champions turned in an impressive showing on defence Friday.

They limited the Rockets to 15 shots on goal, which is the least that the 2020 Memorial Cup hosts have fired at an opposing net this season.

“We just played a good team game. We played hard and I thought our structure was good,” Habscheid said. “We had some lulls at some key points though and a couple of our older guys made mistakes, which can’t happen.

“We are missing a couple of guys (Aliaksei Protas and Ilya Usau, who are with the Belarus Under-20 team at the Division I World Juniors) and (Brayden) Watts was good, but he hasn’t practiced much this week (after leaving last Saturday’s game in Swift Current with an injury). We need guys to step at the moment, and while some of them did, there were a few that didn’t.”

Ozzy Wiesblatt scored a highlight reel goal for the Raiders in the third period for his 13th of the campaign, while Boston Bilous made 13 saves.

The Rockets, who improved to 15-8-1-2 with their second straight win, got great goaltending from Roman Basran as he turned aside 26 shots.

“He’s really picked things up lately,” Foote said. “He’s focusing on his game and he’s starting to mature as a goaltender.

“Roman gave us a chance to win tonight, especially early on as we were trying to get our feet under us and get used to the type of speed that the Raiders bring.”

Dallon Wilton and Nolan Foote both scored for the Rockets, who will visit the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday as they continue their East Division road trip.

The Raiders, who fell to 18-6-3-1 and saw their two-game win streak come to an end on Friday, will return to action Saturday night as they’ll visit the Moose Jaw Warriors at Mosaic Place.

Post-Game Notes

Friday also marked the Rockets debut for overage forward Matthew Wedman, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds late Thursday night.

The Florida Panthers draft pick earned an assist in his first game for his new club, as he helped to set up Nolan Foote’s game-winning power play goal in the third period.

“Matt’s a smart player and I thought he did great out there,” Rockets head coach Adam Foote said.

“When you add him and Jadon (Joseph), who only has a few of games under his belt with us (after coming over from the Moose Jaw Warriors in a trade on Nov. 24), that puts guys into some different positions. That’s something that we’ll adapt to here during this road trip.”

In order to land the Thunderbirds captain, who was tied with Andrej Kukuca for the team lead in scoring with 17 points in 19 games, the Rockets dealt a first round pick in the 2023 WHL Bantam Draft, a second round pick in 2022 and a fifth round pick in 2020.

The Rockets also dealt overage forward Leif Mattson, who was fourth in team scoring with 18 points in 25 games, to the Spokane Chiefs on Thursday night for a third round pick in 2020.

The Raiders have now lost four straight games to their Rockets, with their last win coming in a 3-1 affair at the Art Hauser Centre on Dec. 18, 2015.

Spencer Moe was held without a point on Friday, which brought an end to his six-game point streak.

In addition to Protas and Usau, Niall Crocker was a late scratch for the Raiders.

A first round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Crocker was called up by the team this week and took the warm-up, but he did not suit up for the squad as Brayden Watts was able to play.

The Rockets were without the services of forwards Pavel Novak, Dillon Hamaliuk, Kyle Topping and Liam Kindree, along with defenceman Jackson DeSouza.

Friday’s Scores

  • Kamloops 5 Brandon 4 (Ryan Hughes Shootout Winner – Max Martin – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Edmonton 4 Calgary 2 (Todd Scott – 40 Saves)
  • Medicine Hat 4 Lethbridge 3 (Brett Kemp Shootout Winner – Oliver Okuliar – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Red Deer 7 Moose Jaw 3 (Arshdeep Bains – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Everett 5 Swift Current 1 (Bryce Kindopp – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Spokane 2 Vancouver 1 (Campbell Arnold – 30 Saves)
  • Seattle 4 Victoria 1 (Payton Mount – Two Goals)
  • Winnipeg 3 Regina 2 (Peyton Krebs Overtime Winner – One Goal and One Assist)

Around the WHL

After blueliner Jake Christiansen came back to the team on Thursday following a stint in the American Hockey League with the Stockton Heat, the Everett Silvertips solved their overage situation Friday by dealing forward Max Patterson to the Seattle Thunderbirds for a fourth round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.

Patterson, who was acquired from the Swift Current Broncos last December, had 32 points in 60 games for the Silvertips over the last two seasons.

In addition to Christiansen, the other two overagers in the Silvertips lineup are blueliner Wyatt Wyllie and forward Bryce Kindopp.

Pre-Game Notes

Going into Saturday’s contest in Moose Jaw, the Raiders have won both of their meetings with the Warriors this season and have outscored their provincial rivals by a 13-5 margin.

Following a 7-3 home loss to the Red Deer Rebels on Friday, the 9-15-1-0 Warriors are mired in an eight-game losing streak that has them in fifth place in the East Division and nine points behind the Brandon Wheat Kings for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Brayden Tracey, who has 27 points in 17 games so far in his sophomore campaign, has the best point per game average in the WHL at the moment with a 1.59 mark.

The Warriors will be without forward Cade Hayes and blueliner Daemon Hunt for Saturday’s game due to injuries.

Hunt, who is projected as a first round pick by NHL Central Scouting for next year’s draft, got a severe cut in his arm from a skate blade during a game against the Edmonton Oil Kings on Tuesday.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Prince Albert vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Winnipeg – 7:30 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Portland – 8 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.