Raiders give up late goal, fall 3-2 to Blades

Reece Vitelli celebrates as he scores the tying goal in the third period Friday night against the Saskatoon Blades at the Art Hauser Centre. –Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

A 2-2 tie in the third period between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades was broken late in the third period. Aidan De La Gorgendiere scored a goal from the point with 3:21 left in regulation to lift the Blades to a 3-2 victory over Prince Albert Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre.

“I thought we were okay,” head coach Marc Habscheid said. “I thought a lot of times we wanted to make plays that we shouldn’t have. I didn’t think we were efficient. On the other side, you could see some pucks roll off of sticks. It wasn’t an easy night.”

The Raiders opened the scoring at the 6:59 mark of the first period on the powerplay. Reece Vitelli fired a shot from the slot which was stopped by Nolan Maier, but Sloan Stanick was right on the doorstep for the rebound. He pulled the puck out and put a backhand shot past Maier, who was on his stomach trying to make the save. Stanick’s ninth goal of the year put Prince Albert up 1-0.

Saskatoon answered right back, scoring twice in a two minute stretch. First, Tristen Robins sent a pass to Brendan Lee from the low wall to the slot. Lee was left alone in the middle of the ice, and he ripped a shot past Tikhon Chaika, who started his eight consecutive game in goal. Lee scored his fifth of the year, tying the game 1-1 with 10:25 to go in the first.

The Blades weren’t done there, as they set up shop in the Raider zone again. Trevor Wong worked his way from behind the net into the slot, and Brandon Lisowsky gave him a pass on the tape. Wong ripped a shot through Chaika’s legs for his seventh tally of the season as the Blades went up 2-1.

Remy Aquilon took a slashing penalty with 5:36 left in the period. Stanick later took a double minor for high sticking, and the Blades saw some five on three powerplay time, as well as a lengthy five on four. However, the Raiders managed to kill the duration of both penalties off, and went to the dressing room only trailing by one.

While there was no scoring in the second period, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any dangerous chances. With 12:30 left, Ozzy Wiesblatt grabbed a loose puck along the side of the net, and dashed behind for a wraparound bid. Wiesblatt thought he had tied the game 2-2, as he celebrated and the goal horn went off. However, the official had other ideas, as he didn’t see the puck completely cross the goal line. A review was held during the next stoppage in play, and Maier was able to just stick his pad out far enough. The puck did in fact not cross the line all the way, and Saskatoon maintained their 2-1 lead.

Just one penalty was called in the middle frame, a checking from behind minor to Raider defenceman Eric Johnston, but Prince Albert was able to kill it off. The Blades kept their 2-1 lead after the second period, while the Raiders led in shots 23-21.

3:55 into the third period, the Raiders found themselves on another man advantage after a tripping penalty was assessed to the Blades. Wiesblatt walked along the point, sent a shot on goal, and Vitelli was right in front to deflect it home. His team leading tenth goal of the season tied the game 2-2 early in the third.

The game remained tied late in the third period, but Saskatoon found the game winning goal at the 16:39 mark of the third. From the left circle, Jayden Wiens sent a pass to the point for De La Gorgendiere. He sent a one timer on goal that looked like it took a few bounces on the way in. Those bounces fooled Chaika, as the puck found its way into the back of the net, putting the Blades on top 3-2 late.

“We worked hard to comeback and tie the game,” Vitelli said. “And then to give up a goal like that, it sucks obviously, it cost us the game. Bounces happen in a hockey game, and we just have to come out stronger tomorrow.”

The Raiders pulled the goalie in the final two minutes of the game, and had amazing chances to find the equalizer. Maier made some highlight reel saves in the dying seconds, including a robbery on Carson Latimer on the doorstep. The Blades hung on for the 3-2 victory, separating themselves a little more from Prince Albert in the East division.

“There’s some things that we didn’t do efficiently,” Habscheid added. “That was the key word tonight. We weren’t as efficient as we were maybe against a team like Winnipeg. We weren’t happy making the easy play, we wanted to make the hard play, and that’s good because that means you’re confident. But sometimes it’s hard enough, so when you have a chance to make an easy play you need to make it.”

The Raiders (11-14-1-1) stay right where they are in the East division with 24 points. The Blades (15-12-1-0) build a seven point cushion over Prince Albert with 31 points, and take sole possession back for second place.

These two teams are right back at it on Saturday night in Saskatoon. It will be both teams’ final games before the Christmas break, and will also be Saskatoon’s teddy bear toss night.