With their backs against the wall and facing a must win situation, the Prince Albert Raiders staved off elimination with a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg ICE on Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre. The win meant Prince Albert avoided a first round sweep, and forced the series back to Winnipeg for game five, with the ICE holding a 3-1 series lead.
“I thought both goaltenders played really well,” head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We could’ve had more than two goals and an empty netter for sure. But we did what we had to do. Our penalty kill was good, we scored one on the powerplay and got a little lucky with our second one. We found a way. Winnipeg is 50 points ahead and they have a lot of goal scorers, but it doesn’t matter. Excuses don’t matter. You find a way.”
Both Tikhon Chaika and Daniel Hauser were incredible for both clubs in goal, making clutch saves to keep their respective teams in it. Chaika picked up his first WHL playoff win with a 26 save performance, while Hauser stopped 20 shots in a losing cause.
It was a much better start for the Raiders in game four, as they held the ICE scoreless after the first period. Both teams exchanged a pair of high quality scoring chances, as Sloan Stanick was denied on a breakaway, and Chaika made a huge breakaway save on Conor Geekie. Both teams failed to strike on their singular powerplays in the opening frame, as the two teams went into the second period still in search of a goal. Winnipeg held the slight edge in shots 9-8 after 20 minutes.
1:53 into the second period, the Raiders flipped the script on their first round series, scoring the game’s opening goal on the powerplay. Vlad Shilo sent a pass from the right circle to the point for Remy Aquilon, who fired a shot on goal through traffic. Beating all the bodies in front, Aquilon’s laser beat Hauser and went in, giving the Raiders a 1-0 lead early into the middle frame. For the first time in the series, Prince Albert struck first.
A blistering pace was set all period long, with chance after chance for both teams to find goals. Chaika stood on his head, making 13 saves in the second, including multiple saves on odd man rushed. The Raiders nearly took a 2-0 lead, but a shot off the post kept things at 1-0.
Tempers would also flare in the second period, as a scrum during a Winnipeg powerplay lead to roughing calls assessed to Jack Finley and Nolan Allan. Reece Vitelli drew a charging penalty earlier in the period, and stared down the Winnipeg bench with a huge smile on his face, attempting to get in the heads of the visiting side.
After all was said and done when the buzzer sounded to end the frame, Prince Albert went to the dressing room clinging on to their one goal lead heading into period number three.
It took the Raiders just 1:06 into the third period to double their lead, and were a little fortunate to do so. Eric Johnston fired a shot from long range that deflected off of ICE defenceman Tanner Brown in front and bounced past Hauser and in. In his rookie season, Johnston scored the biggest goal of his young WHL career, putting Prince Albert up 2-0 early in the third.
“Going into the dressing room into the second intermission, we just said we have to win one more period,” Johnston said. “Luckily that shot went off of their defenceman, so that was a bit of a lucky goal there. The fans were definitely electric there and got the team a lot of momentum. Getting goals at the start of a period gets the fans engaged early, and it gets the building going. The boys love it.”
More back and forth action was held for much of the remainder of the third period, but the ICE found a goal with 1:09 left in regulation to make things interesting once again. On the powerplay and with the net empty, Mikey Milne buried a quick shot after taking a cross crease feed from Matthew Savoie. With just over a minute to go in the game, the ICE cut the Raiders lead to 2-1.
However, with the goalie pulled again in the final minute, the ICE got burned by Sloan Stanick, who cashed in an empty netter with 50 seconds to go, putting the game out of reach. Stanick restores Prince Albert’s two goal lead making it 3-1, and that was all she wrote, as the Raiders came away as 3-1 victors, surviving to play at least one more game.
The Great Wall of Chaika
After being pulled in two straight games, Tikhon Chaika put in a game of the year bid on Wednesday night. Out of his 26 saves, nearly half of them were game savers on odd man rushes. There were multiple two on one or three on one breaks for the ICE that the Raider netminder foiled. Chaika says it was a neat experience winning a playoff game at the Art Hauser Centre for the first time.
“It was awesome,” he said. “That was my first experience and it was incredible. It’s playoff time. After yesterday’s game, everyone just had a talk, and we were ready for today. We had a little bit of luck, and but we were better in our defensive zone. We scored on our opportunities.”
Chaika explained how he approached each shot in game four’s win, saying he did his best to stay calm in between the pipes. He did an excellent job of keeping his team in the game in all three periods, and thought he kept the game under control.
“I’m always trying to stay under control,” he said. “I’m always focusing on the game, and I just don’t think about it. We just needed to win every shift. Everybody thinks we can’t win this series, we’re down 0-3. But we played fantastic tonight. We just needed to win every shift, and we will see the result.”
With the win, the Raiders live to fight another day. The team will travel back to Winnipeg on Thursday morning to prepare for Friday’s game five contest. Puck drop for game five from Wayne Fleming Arena goes on Friday at 6 p.m.