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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Home Sports Wheat Kings down Raiders 4-2 in heated Friday rematch

Wheat Kings down Raiders 4-2 in heated Friday rematch

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Wheat Kings down Raiders 4-2 in heated Friday rematch
The Brandon Wheat Kings got the better of the Raiders, knocking off Prince Albert 4-2 on Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

An angry, physical tilt between the Prince Albert Raiders and Brandon Wheat Kings showed just how much both teams are fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The game ended with the Wheat Kings emerging as 4-2 winners, but it was a contest that easily could have went the other way. With the win, the Wheat Kings became the sixth team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff spot, leaving just two slots remaining.

“We talked over these last 18 games about inches,” head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We need inches and I don’t think we got them tonight. On the winning goal, we didn’t block a shot, there was a double screen in front and we didn’t take a stick. Those are inches we need to have. We don’t have much margin for error here, and we understand that. We have to win games 2-1 or 3-2. Those inches are important, and we didn’t get them tonight.”

The Wheat Kings scored the opening goal of the contest 7:16 into the first period on a fortunate bounce in front. Nolan Ritchie fired a weak shot on goal that Tikhon Chaika kicked aside, but the rebound popped back out in front. Vlad Shilo came crashing in to try and clear the rebound, but the puck hit his skate and bounced straight into the net. The fortuitous bounce gave Ritchie his 30th goal of the season, and put Brandon up 1-0 early.

The back and forth play for the remainder of the first, with some big hits thrown into the mix, led to chances for both sides to find goals, but none were scored. The Wheat Kings took their one goal lead into the second period, with Prince Albert leading 8-6 in shots through 20 minutes.

The Raiders knotted things up with 5:17 to go in the second period on the powerplay. A pass attempt by Evan Herman from the right circle went off of a Brandon defender in the slot and bounced right in front of the net. Ethan Kruger was forced to make a reactionary save, but the rebound came in front to Sloan Stanick. The Raider forward pulled the puck to his backhand and tucked home the second chance opportunity. His 20th goal of the season made it a 1-1 game late in the middle frame.

It was a fairly one sided second period in favour of the Raiders, but they only had one goal to show for it by the buzzer at the end of the frame. They outshot Brandon 19-4 in the second period, but couldn’t pot another goal, despite their chances. Kruger had just one blemish after 40 minutes, as well as Chaika, sending the two teams into the third deadlocked at 1-1.

“I don’t think we were inside very much,” Habscheid said about their puck possession in that second period. “We talked about that after the second in our coached office. We didn’t think we generated a lot of 10 bell chances. We had one on a turnover, but other than that, we were on the outside a lot.”

The Wheat Kings restored their one goal lead 4:17 into the third period, going up 2-1. Brett Hyland neatly deflected a Charlie Elick point shot in front of Chaika that beat the Raider netminder five-hole and trickled in past the far post. After surviving most of the second period unscathed, Brandon jumped back ahead, and they didn’t look back from there.

After the Raiders pulled the goalie for the extra attacker, it was the Wheat Kings who took advantage. After a centering pass from Stanick missed everyone in front of the net, Brandon forward Nate Danielson picked up the puck and fired it down the length of the ice into the yawning cage. With 1:48 left in the third, it looked like the visitors had sealed the game away for good.

That was until Stanick delivered with his second goal of the night for the Raiders with 57 seconds to go. After a one timer from Nolan Allan at the point was stopped by Kruger, Stanick found the rebound in front and tucked home his second goal of the night. Late in the game, Prince Albert clawed back to within one, making it a 3-2 game.

“We had a lot of shots on net, but we were a little sleepy in the first period and at the start of the second,” Stanick said. “I thought we got into it and we dominated, but we needed those two points. Those are the inches that we’ve been talking about every day, and it’s hard on the guys for sure.”

Again with the extra attacker on the ice, the Raiders couldn’t maintain consistent pressure in the zone, and the Wheat Kings iced the game with their second empty netter. It was Chad Nychuk’s turn to send a rink long shot into the empty cage, as he made it a 4-2 Brandon lead with just 28 seconds to go. From there, the Wheat Kings were able to hold on, as they came away with the 4-2 victory.

Chaika made 15 saves on 17 shots in the loss, while Kruger turned aside 35 of 37 Raider shots thrown at him, in front of a crowd of 2,841 fans at the Art Hauser Centre.

The Raiders are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Regina Pats.

Around the WHL

The Lethbridge Hurricanes jumped into the seventh playoff spot on Friday night, as they beat the Medicine Hat Tigers 6-3. The Hurricanes now sit with 60 points, six ahead of Prince Albert.

The Calgary Hitmen helped the Raider out a little bit, while also helping themselves out. Calgary beat the Swift Current Broncos 5-2 on Friday night. With the Broncos losing, it keeps the Raiders within for points of the eighth and final playoff spot. However, the Hitmen leapfrogged Prince Albert by one point, and now trail the Broncos by three.

The Hitmen have Saturday night off, giving the Raiders a chance to pull back in front of Calgary with a win over Regina. The Hurricanes will take on the Tigers again to wrap up a home and home series between the two teams.

The Broncos and Hitmen square off on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of their own home and home set.

@kyle_kosowan•sports@paherald.sk.ca