Oil Kings spoil Raiders return home

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Edmonton Oil Kings captain Trey Fix-Wolansky celebrates with teammate Conner McDonald after the blueliner scored in the second period Friday.

It was a tough homecoming for the Prince Albert Raiders Friday in their first game at the Art Hauser Centre since Jan. 12.

Despite taking a 3-2 lead late in the second period, the top ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League gave up four unanswered goals over the final 22 minutes as the Edmonton Oil Kings skated away with a 6-3 victory.

“I didn’t like our compete level tonight,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We were easy to play against.

“We can take away certain things (the first game back after a six-game road trip and the annual parents’ weekend for the team) but the things we can control is how we decide to make a hit, make a play, drive to the net and how we battle. We chose not to pay the price tonight.”

After falling behind 2-1 midway through the second period, Cole Fonstad and Brayden Pachal found the back of the net in an 81-second span to give the Raiders a 3-2 lead with 2:11 left on the clock.

Oil Kings captain Trey Fix-Wolansky would respond moments later as he tied the game up on the power play at the 18:25 mark of the middle frame and moved the visitors back in front for good 56 seconds later.

“They played hard and tough tonight,” Habscheid said. “This was a big game for them and they deserved to win. They battled and competed hard, and will beats skill every single time.

“We want to be a multi-dimensional team and we’ve shown that a lot this year, but there’s been a number of times that we haven’t done that after Christmas. With that said, I think we’ll have a better showing tomorrow against Moose Jaw.”

Oil Kings defenceman Conner McDonald gave his team some insurance with his second goal of the night with 14:51 to go in regulation.

That marker also spelled the end of the night for Raiders netminder Ian Scott, who was pulled in favour of Boston Bilous after allowing five goals on 27 shots.

“We wanted to shake things up a little bit there, but we win as a team and lose as a team,” Habscheid said. “With that said, Ian didn’t have a very good night.”

Jalen Luypen and Vince Loschiavo also scored for the 28-15-4-4 Oil Kings, who won their third straight game Friday and now have a four-point lead over the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Central Division, while Todd Scott turned aside 39 shots.

“That was a solid road game from our team tonight,” Fix-Wolansky said. “We kept things simple and took some things from our previous two games against them (the Raiders) this season, which led to our success.

“We have a lot of big games down the stretch here against teams that are ahead of us in the league standings, plus the teams were battling in our division. We can’t take anything for granted and we’re going to keep pushing for first place.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Prince Albert Raiders forward Cole Fonstad fires a shot past Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Todd Scott in the first period Friday.

Fonstad turned in a strong night on offence for the 41-7-0-2 Raiders as he lit the lamp twice to reach the 20-goal plateau for the second straight season.

“There’s always positives that you can take from a game, but you can’t have as many negatives as we did tonight and expect to have a good result,” Fonstad said.

“We’ve gotten away from our identity here lately and we need to get back to how we know we can play.”

Noah Gregor had a pair of assists in the loss, which saw Bilous make four saves in the final 12 minutes against his old team.

The Raiders will return to action tomorrow for a 7 p.m. home tilt against the Moose Jaw Warriors before they pay a visit to the Oil Kings on Monday night.

Post-Game Notes

Friday’s win for the Oil Kings snapped a five-game losing streak against the Raiders that dated back to Dec. 2, 2017.

It also marked the end of a five-game skid at the Art Hauser Centre, as the Oil Kings last won in Prince Albert on Nov. 27, 2015.

Conner McDonald and Brayden Pachal both increased their point streaks to five games, with McDonald taking over sole possession of second place in goals by a defenceman this season thanks to his two goal night.

After finding the back of the net in the second period Pachal has 13 goals on the campaign and is one marker back of McDonald, though both blueliners are trying to catch Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants and the 19 goals he’s scored so far this season.

Loeden Schaufler was the lone scratch for the Raiders Friday, while the Oil Kings were without blueliners Jacson Alexander, Logan Dowhaniuk and Matthew Robertson, along with forwards David Kope and Jake Neighbours.

Friday’s Scores

  • Moose Jaw 6 Medicine Hat 1 (Brayden Tracey – Three Goals and One Assist – Second Hat Trick This Season)
  • Saskatoon 3 Regina 1 (Nolan Maier – 34 Saves)
  • Brandon 6 Calgary 5 (Luka Burzan Overtime Winner – Ben McCartney – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Kootenay 3 Swift Current 2 (Connor McClennon – Two Goals)
  • Lethbridge 6 Red Deer 2 (Nick Henry – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Kamloops 4 Prince George 1 (Kyrell Sopotyk – Two Goals)
  • Portland 3 Vancouver 0 (Shane Farkas – 24 Saves – Fourth Shutout This Season and Seventh Career)
  • Everett 5 Seattle 2 (Bryce Kindopp – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Spokane 4 Kelowna 0 (Reece Klassen – 25 Saves – First Career Shutout)
  • Victoria 5 Tri-City 2 (Ralph Jarratt – One Goal and One Assist)

Pre-Game Notes

Saturday’s matchup between the Raiders and the Warriors is the third of the season between the provincial rivals.

Prince Albert holds a 2-1 advantage in the season series, but it was Moose Jaw who won the most recent encounter by a score of 4-2 on Jan. 4 at the Art Hauser Centre.

Following a 6-1 win at home over the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday, the 28-11-6-2 Warriors head up to Prince Albert on a four-game win streak and sit in third place in the East Division.

They are also three points back of the Saskatoon Blades for second place and have three games in hand.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Jett Woo is the hottest player in the Warriors lineup at the moment as he’s recorded a point in five straight games.

Forward Tate Popple is the only player sidelined for the team at the moment as he’s sidelined with a lower body injury that he sustained on New Year’s Eve against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Saturday’s Schedule

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