Raiders fall 4-1 to Blades in first game back from Christmas break

Vlad Shilo recorded his first WHL fight in Monday night’s game against the Saskatoon Blades, in a heated exchange with Josh Paulhus. –Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders couldn’t seem to find their legs in Monday night’s contest with the Saskatoon Blades, dropping a 4-1 decision in their first game back from the Christmas break. Two Blades netted their first goals of the season, while two more added their second of the season, as secondary scoring was the deciding factor in the matchup.

“Both teams I thought were okay,” head coach Marc Habscheid said after the game. “I thought the coaching was rusty, the players were rusty, there was a lot of rust. The first game back was a tough game. (Saskatoon) found a way to get it done, and we didn’t.”

A fast paced start to the game was surprising since Monday’s contest marked the first game in nine days for both clubs. Back and forth action in both ends didn’t result in a goal for either side, but the Blades took two penalties halfway through the frame, putting the Raiders on a five on three man advantage.

Despite having the puck in the Saskatoon end for much of the powerplay, Prince Albert failed to generate many chances, throwing minimal pucks on net. Unable to capitalize on the two man advantage, any possible momentum was nullified, allowing the Blades to answer back the other way.

Just 16 seconds after the Blades came back to even strength, they scored the opening goal of the contest. Kyle Crnkovic sent a pass to Tanner Molendyk, who came streaking down the left wing. Molendyk took the feed and ripped a shot past Tikhon Chaika, opening the scoring. For just the second time in five meetings between these teams, Saskatoon scored the opening goal of the game.

“That was the TSN turning point for sure,” Habscheid said. “If we score there, we get a little bit of extra life. They killed it and got a break. That first goal is important, because it gives one team life and the other team is kind of looking around a little bit.”

Things didn’t quite trend the Raiders way in the second period. With 11:38 left in the second, a loose puck came in front of Chaika off the stick of Jayden Wiens. Rowan Calvert, who was called up as an AP from the Moose Jaw Warriors U18 AAA team, found the puck and banged home his first WHL goal, putting the Blades up 2-0.

With just over three minutes to go in the second, things got heated. A fight broke out between Vlad Shilo and Josh Paulhus. A lengthy tilt was an entertaining one, as both parties landed huge blows. Shilo landed uppercut after uppercut, eventually taking Paulhus to the ice. A pumped Shilo headed to the dressing room to serve a 10 minute misconduct, while Paulhus got the same treatment. An extra misconduct assessed to the Blades forward put the Raiders on a powerplay late in the frame.

On that man advantage, it didn’t take long for the Raiders to find their first goal of the contest. Landon Kosior ripped a rocket past Maier, cutting the Saskatoon lead to 2-1 with his seventh goal of the season.

“That was huge,” Kosior said about Shilo’s fight. “For him to step up like that and fight like that, he did great. That gave us a big boost in momentum, and to get a goal on that powerplay was huge.”

Saskatoon held their one goal edge into the second intermission, and with just seven shots in the period between the two teams, Prince Albert led the shots department by a slim 13-9 cushion.

In the third, a turnover in the Raider end resulted in a Blades goal in the slot. A pass was picked off by Spencer Shugrue, who stepped in and wired a shot past Chaika’s glove. Shugrue restored Saskatoon’s two goal lead, making it a 3-1 game 6:47 into the third period.

Prince Albert had another chance to pull within a goal with powerplay late in the third. However, a clearing attempt by Blades defenceman Charlie Wright banked off the boards and down the ice, into the empty net. That was the insurance goal the Blades needed to seal the deal, as they won by a 4-1 final.

“We had some chances, but after two periods, what were the shots,” Habscheid added. “It was like one period, really. It wasn’t a Picasso by any means, it was kind of an ugly games. (Saskatoon) got the points, and that’s all that matters.”

The Raiders have Tuesday off before welcoming the Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is at 7pm.