Raiders drop first game of BC trip to Memorial Cup host Blazers

Prince Albert Raiders forward Brayden Dube carries a puck along the right wing during WHL action at the Art Hauser Centre on Dec. 9 2022

The Prince Albert Raiders gave the 2023 Memorial Cup host Kamloops Blazers all they could handle but could not surpass the Blazers in a 6-4 loss at the Sandman Centre on Friday night.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says that Prince Albert showed a lot of grit against a strong Kamloops opposition.

“They got up early 2-0. We battled back to make it 3-2. We showed lots of resiliency and compete. The second period, it was 4-4. We came off a power play and short handed goal. Third period, they kind of took over with their size and their power. We couldn’t respond. For us to compete the way that we did, I’m happy with the compete and we couldn’t finish it off.”

Kamloops would start the scoring with a power play goal just 2:59 into the first period. With Erik Johnston in the box for interference, Connor Levis would strike for his 12th goal of the season with a wrist shot from the circle beating Raider netminder Tikhon Chaika to give the Blazers a 1-0 lead. Kyle Masters and Dylan Sydor received assists

The two assets Kamloops acquired at the trade deadline would combine for the second Blazers goal of the first period at the 5:13 mark as Ryan Hofer would convert on a partial breakaway for his 28th goal of the season. Olen Zellweger assisted on the play.

Both Hofer and Zellweger were acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Everett Silvertips on Jan. 8.

The Prince Albert Raiders on the board at the 7:39 mark of the first period. An Erik Johnston point shot would go off a Blazer body and past Kamloops netminder Dylan Ernst to cut the lead to 2-1. Sloan Stanick would be credited with the lone assist.

Carter Anderson would draw the Raiders even with his 9th goal of the season from a sharp angle shot at the 16:05 mark of the opening frame. THe goal was unassisted.

After a roughing call to Kamloops forward Shea Van Olm, the Raider power play would go to work. Landon Kosior would rip a shot from the point through traffic and past Ernst to give Prince Albert a 3-2 lead. Keaton Sorenson would pick up the lone assist on the goal.

Kamloops lead the shots 13-7 after the first period

Hofer would tie the game for Kamloops with his 29th goal of the season, a short handed tally at the 11:17 mark of the second period to make it 3-3. Zellweger and Levis would pick up the assists

But it would take just 17 seconds for the Raiders to regain the lead at 4-3 as Brayden Dube would strike on the power play for his 4th goal of the season and 2nd in a Raider uniform. Stanick and Tansem would pick up assists.

The Blazers would keep the back and forth affair going as Daylen Kuefler would knot the score at 4 apiece with his 25th of the campaign with the 17:11 mark of the second period. Ryan Hofer would pick up his third point of the night with the lone helper on the play.

Hofer would complete the hat trick at the 8:47 mark of the third period to give the Blazers the lead at 5-4. Kuefler and Masters would receive assists on the play.

The Blazers would add an insurance marker at the 14:36 mark of the third period. Logan Stankhoven would collect a rebound and make a clean pass to Caeden Bankier who would make no mistake putting the puck in the open net to give Kamloops a 6-4 lead. Matthew Seminoff also got an assist on the goal.

With the assist, Stankhoven now owns the longest active points streak in the WHL at 31 games. Connor Bedard’s 35 game point streak was snapped on Friday night in Lethbridge in a 3-2 Regina Pats victory.

Truitt says the Raiders played well against a Blazers team built to win as the Memorial Cup hosts.

“I thought that we battled. They’re an older team. They got 12 nineteen and twenty old guys on their team. [They have] some marquee guys and our guys hung in there with them and they were chasing us for a while. We expect that from our guys no matter who we play. We’ve risen to the occasion before. Statistics say what they are, and we want to compete every night. The belief is with the players and we’ve done a tremendous job of that.”

Tikhon Chaika made 33 saves in the loss for Prince Albert. Dylan Ernst turned aside 22 shots for Kamloops.

Having won 3 out of 4 games on the trip so far, the Raiders have one final game left before taking the long bus ride back to Hockeytown North.

Truitt says the Raiders have an opportunity to walk away from the chip making major strides towards a playoff berth.

“We can make this a great trip with 4 out of 5. I said to the team after the game, it’s been a good road trip . We’ve learned and realized that even though we are a younger team, we can be a good team. We’re climbing the standings and battling for that. When we play the right way, anybody can beat anybody. We’ve got to be battle ready every night because we need the points.”

The Raiders close out the BC Division road trip with a Saturday night stop at Prospera Place to take on the Kelowna Rockets. Puck drops at 9 p.m. Saskatchewan time.