Predators hold off third period rally to win home opener

The Prince Albert Predators built up a big lead and hung on for victory in front of a vocal Kinsmen Arena crowd at their home opener on Saturday.

The Predators scored twice in the first period, four times in the second and added three more in the third, then held off a furious rally to beat the Swift Current Wolverines 9-8 for their second straight victory.

“I thought we played really well as a team,” Predators coach Tyson Fetch said afterwards. “The things we worked on in practice, we executed during the game, and that’s all you can ask. We managed to shut down their top scorers, so they had to go to different guys, but it was a team effort.”

“We stopped their transition game,” Predators captain Davin Ikert added. “That’s how they get most of their goals, and then we just battled through to the very end.”

Ikert, Matthew Cudmore, Braden Shewchuk, Hayden Ulriksen, Brayden Reiger, Keltin Fyrk, and Tyson Perreault had the goals for Prince Albert, who led 9-4 early in the third before Swift Current started their comeback. Goaltender Duncan Fetch made 41 saves to earn the victory.

An enthusiastic hometown crowd ensured there were few empty seats for Saturday’s contest. The Predators wasted no time giving them something to cheer, when Cudmore opened the scoring just 18 seconds into the game.

“It was amazing,” Ikert said when asked about the crowd. “(There was) lots of support, lots of friends. The barn was packed and loud. It’s always great to play in a place like that.”

However, the Wolverines quickly fought back, scoring three straight goals before Shewchuck made in 3-2 with just under two minutes left in the first.

The scored stayed that way until halfway through the second, when the Predators scored two goals nine seconds apart to take a 4-3 lead.

Prince Albert stuck again three minutes later, scoring two goals just 13 seconds apart to take a 6-3 lead.

“I think shutting down (Swift Current’s) fast break was the answer,” coach Tyson Fetch said when asked about the second period outburst. “We were fast-breaking them in turn, and they couldn’t solve it. I think that really helped us in the end.”

Kaiden Fletcher scored his second of the night for the visitors to make it 6-4 heading into the second intermission. However, the Predators wasted no time widening their lead when both teams took the floor for the third.

Ikert made it 7-4 just nine seconds into the period for a goal that took a few minutes to review before the officials counted it. Perreault added two more at 11:10 and 9:29 to give Prince Albert a 9-4 lead.

The home team looked like they would coast to victory, but surrendered three straight goals, including one of a five-on-three powerplay, to make it 9-7.

The Wolverines added another goal just six seconds after the restart. Swift Current’s Austin Klimm appeared to have scored on a breakaway, but the officials disallowed the goal on a crease violation.

Klimm was awarded a penalty shot on the play after officials ruled he was held by a Prince Albert defender, and he made no mistake, firing the ball into the corner to make it 9-8.

That was as close as the visitors came, however, as the Predators were able to kill off the clock and hold on for victory.

Both Ikert and Fetch said the team learned some valuable lessons from Swift Current’s late rally.

“It’s probably cliché, but there’s still 20 minutes of lacrosse left, so we have to actually finish the game,” Fetch explained. “Lots can happen in three minutes, never mind 20.

“We have to stay out of the box. This team’s too good to give them powerplays, so that’s what we need to work on for the next time we meet them.”

“We’ve just got to keep our mind focused,” Ikert added. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got to pretend the game’s 0-0 the whole time, and keep grinding through.”

The Predators are off until Tuesday when they take on the Saskatoon Jr. Swat at Kinsmen Arena. Game time is 8:30 p.m.

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