Raiders blow by Oil Kings 9-2

Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Vojtech Budik (6) carries the puck out of his team's zone while Edmonton Oil Kings forward Trey Fix-Wolansky (27) tries to keep up with him during the second period of their Jan. 27, 2018 WHL game from P.A. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders used speedy transition play, a five-goal third period and scores from seven different skaters to route the Edmonton Oil Kings 9-2 in Western Hockey League action Saturday night from the Art Hauser Centre.

The win was the team’s fourth in its last five games, which now puts the P.A. club back to 0.500 and closer to a wildcard playoff spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Raiders finished 40 minutes of play up 4-2 on the Oil Kings, with goals from top skaters Cole Fonstad (2), Parker Kelly and Vojtech Budik.

And while Edmonton was down on the scoreboard, it was slowly starting to move the game’s momentum back to its side.

Edmonton Oil Kings forward Tomas Soustal (11) turns the puck over and sets up a goal in front of Prince Albert Raiders goalie Ian Scott during the team’s Jan. 27, 2018 WHL game from P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

That changed in the third period, starting with Kody McDonald’s 24th goal of the year.

Forty-two seconds after the start of the frame, he grabbed the loose puck to the right of Edmonton goalie Todd Scott, skated around an Edmonton defender and slid the black rubber short-side past Scott.

McDonald scored again at 4:00 of the period, which forced Edmonton to make a goalie change, to no avail: The Raiders kept pouring it on with scores from Justin Nachbaur, Zack Hayes and Nikita Krivokrasov, who notched his first WHL goal.

“Our leadership is really driving for the boys to keep the pedal on the metal there going into later frames,” Kelly said after the game.

“We were in the offensive-zone for pretty much the whole game, and we were getting more pucks to the net than we were yesterday. So I guess that kind of made the outcome what it was today.”

Kelly, who’s an alternate captain, said a recent overtime loss in Calgary a week ago was a good learning experience for P.A.; it taught the team to finish off opponents, no matter how big the Raiders’ lead might be.

“We had a good talk with our sports psychology guy. He kind of talked to us about momentum swings and all that little stuff. And I think we’re starting to execute some of the stuff he was teaching us.”

Prince Albert Raiders forward Brett Leason (20) readies himself to block a shot from Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Wyatt McLeod (6) during the second period of their Jan. 27, 2018 WHL game from P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

He gave the nod to the team’s leadership group, too, which he said is helping hammer that point home. “I don’t think letting teams back into the game will be a problem for us coming into the future.”

Kelly’s goal marked his 50th score of his two and a half years in the WHL.

Krivokrasov, who’s in his rookie year in the WHL, said getting his first goal was amazing. He was humble in describing how it came about.

“At the end of the day, it was a team effort and they helped me out. I couldn’t ask for more, so I said thanks to the boys. It’s awesome to have that experience.”

He figured his teammates were happier than he was about the goal, “because we have such a great group of guys. We’re really close, and we help each other out.

“Tonight we played as a team and that’s what we have to do throughout the year. I’m happy to get it over with, and we gotta keep rolling now. So it’s good.”

The Raiders (20-20-7-2) are now back to .500 and remain in sixth spot in the WHL’s East Division. After the Saskatoon Blades won 4-3 in a shootout against the Prince George Cougars on Saturday, the Raiders are four points back of the fifth-place Blades for a wildcard playoff spot. However, the Raiders have one game in hand over the Blades.

P.A. will next play on Tuesday against the visiting Red Deer Rebels (12-25-8-3) at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.