Raiders hang on to beat Warriors

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward Brayden Watts skates away from Moose Jaw Warriors blueliner Chase Hartje last month.

Despite being outshot heavily by the Prince Albert Raiders, the Moose Jaw Warriors never went away on Sunday night at the Art Hauser Centre.

The defending Western Hockey League champions withstood a late power play by the visitors and a wild scramble in front of the net in the final seconds of regulation as they escaped with a 3-2 triumph.

“I think coming off yesterday (when the Raiders earned a 3-0 home win over the Saskatoon Blades) it’s not an unexpected result,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “Moose Jaw competed and we got into some penalty trouble. Once they made it close early, they were interested and they made things difficult.

“We hit about a thousand posts tonight and Boston (Bilous) made some timely saves for them, but we’re at the time of the season where points mean everything and we’ll take them.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Boston Bilous turns aside a shot during the opening period of play at the Art Hauser Centre

Bilous, who was back in Prince Albert for the first time since being traded to Moose Jaw on Jan. 7, was a major reason why the Warriors had a chance to win on Sunday as he made 40 saves and earned third star honours.

“It’s pretty cool to be back ,” Bilous said. “You remember all the memories here and it was a bit of a surreal feeling for sure, but once you start playing you just try to forget that.

“I felt like I played alright and I made the saves that I needed to out there. You always want to win though so it’s not quite as fun when that doesn’t happen.”

Kaiden Guhle, Aliaksei Protas and Ozzy Wiesblatt all scored for the 34-17-5-4 Raiders, while Carter Serhyenko made 14 saves.

“I don’t think we had the game that we wanted, but we got the win, which is all that matters,” Wiesblatt said.

“We’re just working on the little details right now that will help us to be a winning team. That includes cleaning things up in the defensive zone or just doing the right things out there depending on what the score is.”

Ryder Korczak paced the offence for the 14-40-4-0 Warriors, who were coming off a pair of wins over the Swift Current Broncos earlier this weekend.

Korczak found the back of the net during a power play and also dished out a helper to Cade Hayes while on the man advantage.

“For a team like us that’s rebuilding, we want to be like Prince Albert,” Bilous said. “You can see how hard they work and they are always tough to play against.

“You can have all the skill in the world, but if you don’t have the grit or the heart to do the key stuff when it matters, you aren’t going to be successful.”

The Raiders, who now have a three point lead over the Brandon Wheat Kings in the East Division standings, will continue a busy stretch of hockey on Tuesday at home against the Calgary Hitmen.

They will then welcome the Wheat Kings to town on Friday before a rematch in Brandon the following night and a road affair with the Winnipeg Ice on Sunday.

“We’re coming down to the last eight games before playoffs and we’ll have to be consistent with our work ethic here,” Guhle said.

“I think that’s something we can improve on and we should be okay if we can do that.”

Post-Game Notes

Although Ilya Usau saw his eight game point streak come to an end on Sunday, Wiesblatt’s marker allowed him to extend his run of form to a career high eight games.

“My linemates have been awesome for me and our power play has been pretty good too,” Wiesblatt said.

“My teammates are finding me all over the ice and I’m just trying to capitalize on those chances.”

Matthew Culling was the lone scratch for the Raiders, while the Warriors did not dress Cory King, Bryden Kiesman and Owen Hardy.

Sunday’s Scores

  • Lethbridge 3 Calgary 2 (Dino Kambeitz – Two Goals)
  • Everett 4 Portland 1 (Dustin Wolf – 38 Saves)
  • Victoria 4 Vancouver 1 (Brandon Cutler – One Goal and Two Assists)

Pre-Game Notes

Tuesday’s contest at the Art Hauser Centre is the final one of the regular season between the Hitmen and the Raiders, with Calgary currently holding a 2-1 advantage.

Ozzy Wiesblatt was the overtime hero in their previous meeting in Prince Albert as the Raiders picked up a 5-4 triumph on Nov. 17.

The 34-21-4-1 Hitmen, who are currently on a two-game losing streak, are currently in fourth place in the Central Division and sit four points back of the Medicine Hat Tigers.

They are also six points ahead of the Saskatoon Blades for the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic is on a 10-game point streak, which is the best run of form in his career and the longest streak by any player in the WHL at the moment.

Riley Stotts has also played well as of late as he’s recorded a point in his last seven games.

Former Prince Albert Mintos forward Cael Zimmerman has seven points in 26 games in his third campaign with the club.

The visitors are expected to be without the services of blueliners Andrew Viggars and Egor Zamula due to injuries, along with forward Josh Prokop.

Tuesday’s Schedule

  • Calgary vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Swift Current vs. Medicine Hat – 8 p.m.