Raider playoff hopes dashed with 4-1 loss to Winnipeg

Photo by Nathan Reiter. The Prince Albert Raiders bench during a home game earlier this season.

The Prince Albert Raiders needed another victory to stay in the WHL playoff race, but the first place Winnipeg ICE had other ideas defeating the Raiders 4-1 at Wayne Fleming Arena on Saturday night.

The start of the game was delayed by an hour due to some mechanical issues with the Raider bus driving into Winnipeg.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says the team didn’t allow the late start time to affect the game.

“We hung in there really well in the first period. 0-0 and a real quick start. We got here and only had an hour. I give our guys a lot of credit for not thinking about it too much, they didn’t have much time to prepare physically but they did real well.”

The Raiders also had several key players scratched Saturday. Centreman Aiden Oiring and Keaton Sorenson were unavailable due to injuries suffered in Friday’s game against the Brandon Wheat King resulting in several new line combinations for the Raiders.

Truitt says the new line combinations held their own against a dangerous Winnipeg opposition.

“It’s all new and that’s a bit of the problem when you lose two centremen out of your lineup. You are injecting guys into new positions with new linemates. Good players can play with anybody and I thought they managed the game pretty well. The only thing for me was defensively we have them some really good looks, They had pucks and odd man rushes. That was one of the disappointing things giving them a lot of looks. As far as the line combinations went, they worked for us and that’s all you can ask.”

It would take halfway through the second period for the seal to be broken on the score column and it would be the home side Winnipeg ICE to open the scoring. Ottawa Senators prospect Zach Ostapchuk would strike on the power play for his 27th goal of the season to give the ICE a 1-0 lead. Matthew Savoie and Graham Sward assisted on the play.

THe Raiders would nearly tie the game early in the third period as Carter Anderson would step into a slap shot that would beat ICE netminder Daniel Hauser, but not the red iron of the goalpost behind him to keep the Winnipeg lead at 1-0.

The ICE would double their lead 3:47 into the third period as Evan Friesen would score his 12th goal of the campaign to give Winnipeg a 2-0 advantage. Ostapchuk and Ty Nash assisted on the play.

Ben Zloty would add another for the ICE at the 9:22 mark with his 12th goal of the season. Connor McClennon and Savoie picked up assists on the play.

McClennon would strike for a goal of his own as the 20-year-old forward would add his 44th goal of the season to make the score 4-0 in favor of the ICE. Savoie picked up his third assist of the night on the play. Jonas Woo also got a helper on the play.

The Raiders would pull within three, as Carter Anderson would strike for his 13th goal of the season in his home province to cut the Winnipeg lead to 4-1 at the 15:32 mark of the third period. Landon Kosior also assisted on the play.

Truitt says the Raiders weren’t able to gain enough puck control to forge a comeback in the third period.

“We were trying to press as much as we could. Puck possession was a huge thing. They had the puck an awful lot and we had the puck for short periods of time, but not enough to get some sustained pressure. When we did get chances, we missed the net a lot. We worked ourselves into some really good positions and the next thing you heard was the puck hitting the glass. You got to hit the net when you get your opportunities, especially against this [Winnipeg] team.”

Tikhon Chaika made 23 saves in net for Prince Albert. Daniel Hauser made 19 saves for Winnipeg.

With wins by both Calgary and Swift Current on Saturday night, the Prince Albert Raiders have been mathematically eliminated from the 2022 WHL Playoffs.

The Raiders return to action on Sunday afternoon against the Winnipeg ICE at Wayne Fleming Arena. Puck drops at 3:05 p.m. Saskatchewan time.