Raiders earn weekend split

Aiden Oiring of the Prince Albert Raiders takes a faceoff against Lethbridge's Sean Tschigerl during WHL action at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday Night. Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald.

The Prince Albert Raiders earned a split on their pair of games over the weekend.

Raiders edge Wheat Kings in defensive battle

A pair of goals less than a minute apart late in the third period lifted the Prince Albert Raiders to a 2-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings at Westoba Place on Friday night.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says Prince Albert had chances to score early, but battled to earn the two points.

“We had some chances, a couple of looks and two on one that we didn’t capitalize on. You think, well, this could be a long one, and it was, You take a look at 0-0 after two and it’s a road game and you’re kind of thinking, okay we’re in it.

We’re down 1-0, under five minutes left, and it’s kind of like it was a doomsday, but our guys are really good. We got the one goal and then a face off play gets us the winner. Again, it’s the characteristic of our team, we don’t give up.”

The first two periods were a defensive tug of war with neither team finding the back of the net.

The Raiders were the better team in the first period, outshooting the host Wheat Kings 11-4. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Carson Bjarnason made several key stops to keep the game scoreless.

The tides would shift in the second period as the Wheat Kings would outshoot the Raiders 10-4, but Max Hildebrand stood tall in the crease for Prince Albert.

Carter Klippenstein would finally break through for the Wheat Kings at the 16:10 mark of the third period with the game’s first goal. Luke Shipley had the lone assist.

Just 1:38 later, Ryder Ritchie would pick the perfect time to score his first goal since returning from injury as he would dart in and put a backhand shot past the sprawling pad of Bjarnason for his 14th goal of the season. Krzysztof Macias had the lone helper.

Ritchie’s 13th goal of the season came back on Dec. 8 against the Calgary Hitmen.

Less than a minute after the Ritchie goal, the Raiders would strike again. A Turner McMillen faceoff win in the offensive zone would lead to the puck ending up on the tape of Krzysztof Macias and the Polish Prince would make no mistake, rifling home his 20th goal of the season to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead with just 1:24 remaining in the third period. McMillen and Ritchie picked up the assists.

The trio of Macias, McMillen and Ritchie have been penciled together in the Raider lineup after Ritchie’s return from a lower body injury.

Truitt says he was pleased with the contributions from that line in victory.

“I like the impact they had on the game tonight in clutch times. It’s not always Stanick, Oiring and Crocker. We’re getting contributions from a number of lines in different ways. It’s just nice to see those guys get some goals tonight and get ready for a big one tomorrow.”

With the win, Prince Albert pulled within two points of the Wheat Kings for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. They remain three points ahead of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Lethbridge defeated Saskatoon by a 4-1 final score Friday night at the SaskTel Centre.

The Raiders welcome the Hurricanes to the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 p.m.

Raiders surge falls just short in loss to Hurricanes

The Prince Albert Raiders gave it their all, but couldn’t complete a third period comeback in a 4-3 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday night.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says the main difference in the game was Lethbridge making good on their power play opportunities.

“It’s almost like familiar territory, we’re down and keep coming back. It’s not a hill that we haven’t climbed and started to build momentum. The five-minute major they score one is the difference here, but we didn’t get a power play for whatever reason. (It) wasn’t for a lack of trying. Our guys had two good looks here with the six on five and we just couldn’t convert.”

Lethbridge would break the seal just 3:33 into the first period as Brayden Edwards would deposit his 33rd goal of the season. Dylan Sydor and Noah Chadwick picked up the helpers.

Ryder Ritchie would pull the Raiders even at the 5:58 mark with his 15th goal of the season as a result of a mad scramble in front of Lethbridge goaltender Harrison Meneghin. The goal was unassisted.

Matej Kubiesa would receive a game misconduct for a check from behind on Lethbridge’s Dylan Sydor that would result in the Raiders heading to the penalty kill for five minutes.

Former Raider Hayden Pakkala would bat a rebound out of mid-air past Hildebrand to put the Hurricanes ahead at the 11:31 mark of the opening frame with his 12th goal of the season.. Carter Dereniwsky and Kooper Gizowski assisted on the play.

Pakkala would strike again with an unassisted tally at the 16:34 mark to double the Lethbridge lead to 3-1 heading into the first intermission.

Shots favored the Raiders by a slim 13-12 margin after the first period.

A minor penalty against Easton Kovacs early in the second period would lead to the Hurricanes extending their lead to three.

Dylan Sydor would find a rebound at the side of the net and would deposit his 24th goal of the season at the 6:44 mark of the middle frame. Gizowski and Logan McCutcheon assisted on the play.

A quick strike just 1:17 into the third period would give the Raiders life.

Krzysztof Macias would tip home a pass from Niall Crocker for his 21st goal of the campaign to cut the Hurricane lead to 4-2. Justice Christensen received the secondary helper.

Macias would strike against the 13:20 mark to bring the Raiders within one with his 22nd goal of the season. A slick pass from overage centreman Turner McMillen would set up Macias. Jacob Hoffrogge picked up the secondary assist.

According to Polish Puck, Macias is now tied for second amongst Polish-born players for goals in a season in the CHL. Alan Lyszczarczyk is the record holder with a 39 goal campaign split between the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack and Mississauga Steelheads in 2018-19.

Lyszczarczyk also recorded a 21 goal campaign for the Attack in 2017-18.

Macias says he is hopeful that his success in Prince Albert will inspire more young players in Poland.

“Obviously it would mean more if we won the game. I would feel better about it. It’s good for Polish hockey players to see that they also can achieve something and I hope I will help young Polish players to believe in themselves and to start believing that they can achieve something in hockey.”

The Raiders would push for the equalizer, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Prince Albert had stunned the Hurricanes with a three goal third period comeback at the Enmax Centre last month.

Truitt says the key to the Raiders being able to forge a comeback is mental toughness.

“It’s a mindset. You’re playing from behind, you want to sit down and kick stones, look at the ground. You’re not going to do any good for yourself. You don’t want it, but it’s a mentality. Our guys have been down. We’ve come back and we’ve won. It’s not like we’re comfortable with it, but we know that we can do it and we weren’t that far off here tonight.”

Harrison Meneghin made 37 stops for the Hurricanes while Max Hildebrand made 30 stops for the Raiders.

The Raiders return to action on Friday night when the Edmonton Oil Kings visit the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m.