Raiders beat Hitmen on Budik’s OT winner

Prince Albert Raiders centre D-Jay Jerome carries the puck into the Calgary Hitmen's zone in WHL action at the Art Hauser Centre on Sept. 29, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Early in the week Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Vojtech Budik preached assertive, stable defence and smart passes out of his zone.

And yet he emerged as the hero Friday night after he buried the game-winning goal in overtime against the Calgary Hitmen, lifting his side to a 6-5 win, the Raiders’ first win of the season.

Budik was rushing into Calgary’s zone with centre Jordy Stallard carrying the puck on his left side, just after three minutes into 4-on-4 play. The pair managed to create an odd-man rush against the lone Calgary defender.

Stallard snapped the puck at goalie Nick Schneider, who turned it aside to his left, in front of a waiting Budik. The 19-year-old Czech corralled the rebound and banged it home at 3:07 into the extra frame.

“He shot and I went to the rebound and I scored. I’m so happy for it,” Budik, exuberant, said after the game.

It’s the first time in his career he scored a game-winning overtime goal, he said.

“He’s just a quality kid – open to learn, works hard and when he has those characteristics, he’s gonna be a good player. He is a good player,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said of Budik. “He’s gonna be real important for us this year.”

After the game, Budik was still resolute in his defensive mindset: “First thing is play defence for sure; (then) make the passes, play simpler, shoot the puck,” he said.

“He knows what he needs to be, and that’s a first-pass, stay-at-home defenceman. But everybody likes scoring goals, and he scored the winner so we’re happy for him,” Habscheid said.

The Raiders had to dig themselves out of a second-period hole to come away with the win.

The team started the game on the right foot: It dominated the first period, thanks to effective puck cycling and several chances in Calgary’s slot in front of Schneider.

The Raiders were up 2-1 after 20 minutes, with goals from Parker Kelly and Devon Skoleski.

Kelly was instrumental in setting up plays from behind the Hitmen’s net and in antagonizing Calgary’s defencemen, often right next to Schneider.

But in the second period, the Raiders seemed to slow down and back off the pressure they had created in the first period.

Calgary netted three goals in the frame, including a short-handed backhand shot from Matteo Gennaro.

Along with Gennaro, Andrei Grishakov and Jakob Stukel scored for their side. The group notched all three goals in a quick two-and-a-half minute flurry.

“Our chances were heavily in our favour throughout the game, so we started to cheat in the second period a little bit – it cost us. And then (goalie Nicholas Sanders) had a tough night,” Habscheid said.

Prince Albert Raiders goalie Curtis Meger readies himself for a save against the Calgary Hitmen in WHL action at the Art Hauser Centre on Sept. 29, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Calgary was up 4-2 at 15:52 of the period after the Stukel goal, effectively chasing Sanders from the game and forcing Habscheid to substitute in Curtis Meger for Sanders.

By that point, Sanders had allowed four goals on the 19 shots he faced. Thirteen of those shots came in the second period, thanks in part to the Raiders’ slower tempo.

Defenceman Max Martin pulled his team within one point at 17:01 of the period. His slap shot banged off the goal post, then off of Schneider, trickling into the Hitmen’s net.

Once the third period started, Prince Albert picked up where it had left off in the first – creating rushes into Calgary’s zone, setting up give-and-go plays and shooting on Schneider frequently.

The chances proved effective: Stallard tied the game at 10:35, and Spencer Moe scored the go-ahead goal at 17:01.

But the lead was short-lived, after Gennaro tipped in his second goal of the game a little over a minute later.

The teams ended regulation time tied at 5-5, forcing the extra period of play.

That eventually led to Budik’s winner.

After a quick celebration and an all-team salute at centre ice to the 1,822 people in attendance, Budik was focused on Saturday’s game.

“We have to keep going tomorrow against Medicine Hat,” he said.

The Raiders (1-2) will play the Tigers (2-1) at the Art Hauser Centre at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Habscheid confirmed that Meger will get the start in net for his side.