Raiders fail to play spoiler in Blades home opener

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald. Aiden Oiring of the Prince Albert Raiders squares up for a faceoff with Saskatoon Blades captain Trevor Wong during WHL action Sunday afternoon at the SaskTel Centre.

The Prince Albert Raiders looked to play spoiler on Sunday afternoon as they traveled to the SaskTel Centre to take on the Saskatoon Blades in their 2023-24 home opener, but a slow start proved to be too much to overcome as the Raiders fell 4-2.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says the team didn’t come out with the energy that was required.

“I thought we got outworked in the first, they were much more hungry then we were. THey won a lot of battles and had a lot of time. In the second period, you start getting in on the penalties. Taking that many penalties against this team with the power play like they do, you’re shortening the bench and you’re going with your penalty killers. It wears down the bench, our discipline has to pick up an awful lot. We’ve been giving other teams too many power plays. That’s one thing we for sure have to get better at.”

The first period would not be kind to the visitors from Hockeytown North.

Saskatoon would capitalize on an early Raider mistake to open the scoring just 0:28 in. A miscommunication between Easton Kovacs and Chase Coward would lead to a turnover right in front of the net and Vaughn Watterodt would make no mistake for his 1st goal of the season.

Ben Saunderson would double the Blade lead at the 5:43 mark with the wrist shot from the point over the shoulder of Chase Coward. Tyler Parr and Charlie Wright provided the helpers on the play.

Lukas Hansen added a third for Saskatoon at the 14:01 mark after another turnover by the Raiders in their own end. Tyler Parr had the lone assist on the play.

Truitt says the Raiders didn’t manage the puck well in their own end to start the game.

“I didn’t like it. We turned over the puck for their third goal. We weren’t heavy enough. You have to prepare for yourself for the battles that are coming at you. You got to command it and be able to prepare yourself for the plays. It’s the speed of the game, they’re a fast game and they’re going to put pressure on you and we didn’t handle it very well.”

The Raiders would find themselves in penalty trouble in the second period. Ryder Ritchie would be called for a double minor for high sticking, Justice Christensen would be called for boarding and Niall Crocker would be sent off for delay of game giving Saskatoon an extended chance 5-on-3.

Blade captain Trevor Wong would wire a shot past Coward to give the Blades a 4-0 advantage at the 15:08 mark of the frame. Brandon Lisowsky and Charlie Wright added assists on the play.

Prince Albert would cut into the lead before the end of the period as Matej Kubiesa would find twine for his first career WHL goal on a rebound from an Oli Chenier shot at the 18:23 mark of the second period. Grady Martin picked up a helper on the play.

Shots after forty minutes favored the Blades 18-15.

In the third period, Owen Boucher would bring the Raiders within two with his goal of the campaign at the 9:08 mark. The goal was unassisted

However, that would be as close as the Raiders would get. Evan Gardner stood tall in net for the Blades making 30 saves in the victory. Chase Coward took the loss in his Raider debut making 20 saves 

The Raiders return to action on Wednesday night when they travel to Brandon to take on the Wheat Kings. Puck drops at 6 p.m. Saskatchewan time.