Raiders complete first ever season sweep of Hitmen

Photo Courtesy of Robert Murray/WHL Prince Albert Raiders forward Noah Gregor powers his way by Calgary Hitmen defenceman Jackson van de Leest at the Stampede Corral Friday night.

It was a history making night in a number of ways for the Prince Albert Raiders Friday.

While Sean Montgomery broke Brett Novak’s record for the most games played in team history with his 331st regular season appearance, the Raiders were able to sweep the season series against the Calgary Hitmen for the first time in franchise history following a dominant 8-2 showing at the Stampede Corral.

“It was impressive to watch, especially since we had been off since Monday when we played in Edmonton and we were going into a rink that none of the players had ever been in,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid.

“The guys were in sync tonight. There are some nights where the puck luck doesn’t go your way, but they were making nice plays and scoring nice goals.”

Linemates Noah Gregor and Cole Fonstad led the way for the 44-7-0-2 Raiders, who have won their last three games.

Gregor notched his second Western Hockey League hat trick and had an assist in the victory, while Fonstad scored twice and dished out three helpers for his first career five-point night.

“They’ve had some great synergy together this year and we saw some more of that from them tonight,” Habscheid said.

“They played well and Ozzy (Weisblatt) was able to fit in with them when (Brett) Leason went down.”

Leason, who leads the team in scoring with 78 points, was involved in a collision with Hitmen goaltender Jack McNaughton midway through the first period of play when the rookie netminder came out of his net to play the puck.

McNaughton’s evening was over as a result of the hit, but Leason continued playing until the second period when he left the ice and did not return.

His status for Saturday’s road matchup with the Lethbridge Hurricanes was not known immediately after the game.

Dante Hannoun, Sergei Sapego and Eric Pearce also scored for the Raiders, while Ian Scott turned aside 21 shots on his way to his 31st win of the season.

Friday’s setback for the 27-20-4-1 Hitmen marked the end of their two-game win streak, but they still hold a six-point advantage over the Brandon Wheat Kings for the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

James Malm paced the hosts on offence as he had an assist on Riley Stotts’ second period goal and found the back of the net on a third period penalty shot.

McNaughton made five saves before he left the game following his collision with Leason, which led to Carl Stankowski taking over in goal as stopped 32 shots in his first appearance since a Nov. 23 road game against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Post-Game Notes

Friday’s game in the Stampede Corral brought back a number of memories for Raiders coach Marc Habscheid, who played in the venue with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

“When they had the Battle of Alberta between the Flames and Oilers there before they moved to the Saddledome, there would be 7,500 people standing in there packed three or four rows deep,” Habscheid said.

“The fans are right on top of you and it makes for a heck of an atmosphere. Tonight might have been the last hockey game they play in here, so it’s pretty neat for our guys to be a part of that.”

To mark the ocassion, the Raiders donned throwback jerseys from the 1988-89 campaign, while the Hitmen wore the same colours that the Calgary Wranglers had when they played in the league from 1977 to 1987.

Hitmen forward Kaden Elder saw his six-game point streak end Friday, but his teammate Riley Stotts was able to extend his run of form to six straight games on a second period goal.

Meanwhile, Noah Gregor is now on a five-game point streak for the Raiders following his four-point night.

Justin Nachbaur was the lone scratch for the Raiders, while the Hitmen did not dress defencemen Dakota Krebs and Egor Zamula, along with forwards Jake Kryski and Hunter Campbell.

Around the WHL

After suffering their 11th straight loss Wednesday night, the Prince George Cougars parted ways with head coach Richard Matvichuk.

Matvichuk, who joined the team in the summer of 2016 after two seasons behind the bench with the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks, posted a 85-89-12-10 record during his tenure with the Cougars.

He led the squad to their first ever division title in 2016-17, but they crashed out in the first round to the Portland Winterhawks and have been in a rebuild ever since.

Cougars general manager Mark Lamb will be taking charge of the coaching duties for the rest of the season, as the 16-31-4-2 side are eight points back of the Seattle Thunderbirds for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Friday’s Scores

  • Brandon 3 Saskatoon 2 (Ben McCartney Shootout Winner – Riley Lamb – 53 Saves)
  • Moose Jaw 4 Lethbridge 3 (Josh Brook Overtime Winner – Two Goals and Two Assists – Justin Almeida – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Regina 3 Red Deer 2 (Ryker Evans Overtime Winner – First Career WHL Goal – Max Paddock – 31 Saves
  • Vancouver 3 Kamloops 1 (Tristen Nielsen – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Kelowna 4 Prince George 3 (Nolan Foote – Two Goals
  • Spokane 8 Victoria 3 (Ethan McIndoe – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Tri-City 7 Kootenay 4 (Parker AuCoin -Three Goals and Two Assists – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Portland 4 Seattle 1 (John Ludvig – One Goal and One Assist
  • Medicine Hat 1 Everett 0 (Mads Sogaard – 41 Saves – Third Shutout This Season)

Wednesday’s Scores

  • Saskatoon 6 Moose Jaw 1 (Dawson Davidson – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Calgary 4 Regina 3 (Kaden Elder – Two Goals – Ty Kolle – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Medicine Hat 6 Kootenay 3 (Ryan Jevne – Two Goals and Two Assists
  • Vancouver 4 Prince George 3 (Bowen Byram Overtime Winner – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Spokane 5 Kelowna 4 (Luke Toporowski – Two Goals and One Assist – Leif Mattson – Four Assists)
  • Victoria 5 Seattle 3 (Phillip Schultz – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)

Pre-Game Notes

The Raiders have a pair of 5-1 victories against the Hurricanes this season and have won their last five meetings aganst the club, though they have yet to face them since they acquired forwards Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn from the Regina Pats in late November.

After a 4-3 overtime home loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors Friday, the 27-15-5-5 Hurricanes have dropped their last two contests and find themselves tied for second in the Central Division with the Medicine Hat Tigers, though they are just two points back of the Edmonton Oil Kings and have a game in hand.

Justin Nachbaur will not dress for the Raiders as he serves the third and final game in a three-game suspension for his post-buzzer scrap with the Warriors’ Tristin Langan last Saturday night.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Saskatoon vs. Swift Current – 5 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Red Deer – 8 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Seattle – 8 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Kootenay vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Tri-City – 9 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Everett – 9 p.m.