The window of opportunity to sneak into the WHL playoffs got even smaller for the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday.
Evan Herman scored two goals, and Cale Sanders added a shorthanded marker, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Regina Pats, who downed the Raiders 5-3 at the Brandt Centre.
“In the third I thought we were real good, and we probably deserved better,” Raiders coach Marc Habscheid said afterwards. “We hit some posts—the crossbar on the penalty shot—and probably deserved a better fate tonight than we did last night.”
The Raiders gave up an early shorthanded goal and found themselves playing catch-up for most of the night. They still find themselves sitting two points behind the Swift Current Broncos for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, with the two clubs scheduled to meet in Swift Current on Friday, April 15.
With the win, the Pats climbed past the Raiders to sit 10th in the conference. The Calgary Hitmen lost 5-1 to Lethbridge, giving the Raiders some good news on an otherwise somber night.
“We have two games left and Calgary lost, so that’s good,” Habscheid said. “We’re still hanging in there.”
The Pats opened the scoring shorthanded with four minutes to play in the first period. Tanner Howe blocked a shot, and sped through centre ice on a breakaway after Raiders defenceman Nolan Allan lost his footing.
Tikhon Chaika made the initial stop on Howe, but the puck appeared to bounce off his blocker and into the net as he tried to swipe it away.
The Raiders tied things up early in the second with a shorthanded goal of their own on a great individual effort from Cale Sanders. Sanders grabbed the puck in his own zone and muscled his way past a Pats defender before roofing the puck over Regina goalie Kelton Pyne’s shoulder to make it 1-1.
It didn’t take long for the Pats to break the deadlock. Connor Bedard scored his first of two goals on the night less when he wired a shot over Chaika’s glove less than four minutes later. The Pats then extended their lead thanks to Braxton Whitehead, who fooled the Raiders with a crafty bit of stickhandling behind the net and fed an unmarked Borya Valis in front.
The Raiders got back on track early in the third with Evan Herman’s first of two goals on the night. Reece Viatelli fed Herman with a perfect cross-ice pass and the Raider forward made no mistake in firing the puck past a sprawling Pyne.
“He shows up every night,” Habscheid said when asked about Herman’s play. “He’s part of the solution. He cares. He’s a good leader, a good man, and a good hockey player.”
The Raiders had their best chance of the period to tie things up not long after when a Pats defender hauled down Keaton Sorensen for a penalty shot. Sorensen had Pyne beat, but couldn’t beat the post, keeping it a one goal game.
The two teams exchanged goals in a less than one minute span, with Bedard finding the net on the powerplay at 6:46 and Herman replying at 7:26, but that was it for Prince Albert. Pats captain Logan Nijhoff iced the game with a long-distance empty netter to secure the victory with 1:40 to play.
Chaika stopped 13 of the 17 shots he faced for the Raiders, while Pyne made 24 saves for the Pats.
The Raiders are in Swift Current on Friday before returning to Prince Albert to face the Brandon Wheat Kings in their regular season finale. Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.