Raiders have last laugh in final meeting of the year with Blades

Photo Courtesy of Keith Hershmiller/WHL Ozzy Wiesblatt, left, and Evan Herman celebrate after Wiesblatt opened the scoring for the Prince Albert Raiders in Thursday's 4-0 win over the Saskatoon Blades.

While the Saskatoon Blades won this year’s season series over the Prince Albert Raiders, the Raiders were able to prevent their archrivals from sweeping all four of their meetings in the Western Hockey League’s East Division hub in Regina with an impressive 4-0 performance on Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve been a part of some pretty big wins here with the Raiders and this is right up there,” Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt said.

“I’m so proud of the guys with how they battled and competed all game. Our young guys really stepped up and ‘Paddy’ (Raiders netminder Max Paddock) stepped up when we needed him to.”

A win by the Blades would have given him their first ever season sweep over the Raiders during the WHL’s Internet era, which dates back to the 1996-97 campaign.

“After our last game (a 5-3 contest on April 8) they were taunting our guys at the bench and they don’t like that,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “Before the game, we read online that they had the brooms out and we’re going to sweep us.

“The last time I checked, our guys are defending WHL champions and two-time Eastern Division champions. This is a 24-game exhibition schedule and for them to taunt us like they did is something we took to heart. The guys were highly motivated today.

Wiesblatt, who led the way for the Raiders on offence with a goal and an assist, snapped an 11-game scoring drought by converting on a nifty passing play with linemates Evan Herman and Reece Vitelli just 83 seconds into the contest.

“That was a relief,” Wiesblatt said after finding the net for the first time since he potted a pair against the Moose Jaw Warriors on March 27. “I haven’t been too happy with my play lately and my linemates stepped up for me today and we’re finding me all over the place.”

Underage blueliner Terrell Goldsmith had the biggest night of his WHL career to date on Thursday as the Raiders’ 2020 first round pick wired home his first goal in the opening frame.

“I thought it went off one of our guys and into the net to be honest,” Goldsmith said. “I was ecstatic when I found it that it was my first goal and I almost blacked out.”

Justin Nachbaur and Landon Kosior also lit the lamp for the 8-10-2-1 Raiders, who snapped a two-game losing skid.

Paddock turned aside all 20 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.

The 14-4-2-1 Blades, who have lost their last three games, received a 27-save showing from Nolan Maier.

The Raiders will be back in action on Saturday for a 6 p.m. meeting with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

They will wrap up their season with a 4 p.m. contest with the Winnipeg Ice on Monday and an 8 p.m. encounter with the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday.

Post-Game Notes

The Blades were previously one game away from sweeping the season series over the Raiders in the 2005-06 campaign, as they won the first eight contests before dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to their biggest rivals in their ninth and final encounter of the year at the Art Hauser Centre on March 18.

The Raiders earned a clean sweep over the Blades in the 1996-97 season when they won all seven encounters.

Terrell Goldsmith became the first underage player to score a goal for the Raiders in a regular season game since Ozzy Wiesblatt accomplished that feat on Jan. 21, 2018 against the Calgary Hitmen and the first to record a point since Nolan Allan had an assist on a Kody McDonald goal on Nov. 9, 2018 against the Swift Current Broncos.

The last 15-year-old blueliner to score for the Raiders prior to Goldsmith was Justin Palazzo on March 18, 2005 against the Blades.

Max Paddock earned his second shutout in as many seasons over Saskatoon on Thursday, with his previous clean sheet coming in a 3-0 triumph on Feb. 29, 2020 where he made 18 saves at the Art Hauser Centre.

Thursday’s loss for the Blades also saw forward Evan Patrician suffer an apparent injury after a collision with Wiesblatt in the third period.

According to Raiders play-by-play announcer Trevor Redden, Patrician was unable to put any weight on his right leg as he was helped back to the dressing room and did not return.

Aiden De La Gorgendiere, Tanner Molendyk, Tristen Robins, Colton Dach, Hayden Smith and Ethan Chadwick did not dress for the Blades on Thursday, while the Raiders were without the services of Logan Danis, Kaiden Guhle, Nolan Allan, Graydon Gotaas and Max Hildebrand.

Around the WHL

The Calgary Hitmen, who have been sidelined since a positive COVID-19 test within their team cohort on April 9, have been cleared to return to on-ice activities and will be back in action on Friday when they’ll host the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The WHL also announced on Thursday that the Hurricanes will be the only team to complete all 24 games in the Central Division as a result of schedule changes and postponements during the campaign.

The Edmonton Oil Kings, Medicine Hat Tigers and Red Deer Rebels will have played 23 games, while the Hitmen will have taken to the ice on 21 occasions.

Meanwhile, the BC Division also had some changes to the number of games their sides will play.

The Kelowna Rockets, who were sidelined following COVID-19 cases earlier this month, will play 18 times while the other four teams (Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals) will compete in 22 games.

The Tri-City Americans are the only team that’s currently off of the ice following a positive COVID-19 test result that was announced last Saturday.

Tuesday’s Scores

  • Regina 4 Saskatoon 2 (Carter Chorney – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Kamloops 6 Kelowna 2 (Connor Levis – Four Goals – First Career Hat Trick)

Wednesday’s Scores

  • Brandon 6 Swift Current 1 (Nolan Ritchie – Two Goals)
  • Winnipeg 6 Moose Jaw 5 (Jakin Smallwood Overtime Winner – Two Goals – Cade Hayes – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Vancouver 5 Victoria 3 (Justin Sourdif – One Goal and Two Assists)

Thursday’s Scores

  • Edmonton 3 Medicine Hat 0 (Jake Neighbours – Two Goals – Sebastian Cossa – 30 Saves – Third Shutout This Season and Seventh Career – Garin Bjorklund – 49 Saves)
  • Everett 5 Spokane 0 (Hunter Campbell – Two Goals – Dustin Wolf – 32 Saves – Fourth Shutout and 24th Career)
  • Swift Current 4 Regina 2 (Michael Farren – Two Goals)
  • Kamloops 4 Prince George 1 (Connor Zary – One Goal and One Assist)

Pre-Game Notes

The 16-3-2-0 Wheat Kings, who have the most points of anyone in the WHL at the moment and are second to the 14-1-0-1 Edmonton Oil Kings for the best win percentage in the league, enter Saturday’s game on a five-game win streak.

They’ve won two out of three meetings with the Raiders this year and are looking to take the season series for the first time since 2014-15.

If the Raiders beat the Wheat Kings on Saturday, it will mark the first time the sides have split their head-to-head matchups since the 2017-18 season when they won three games each.

Prince Albert’s Braden Schneider could be facing his hometown team for the final time on Saturday as he’s expected to begin his pro career with the New York Rangers next year.

The 19-year-old blueliner has recorded seven points in 19 career games against the Raiders.

Friday’s Schedule

  • Lethbridge vs. Calgary – 2 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Winnipeg – 4 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Spokane – 7 p.m.
  • Regina vs. Moose Jaw – 8 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Kamloops – 8 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Seattle vs. Portland – 6 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Brandon – 6 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Medicine Hat – 7 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.