Raiders hold off Rebels for 17th straight win

Photo Courtesy of Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate Prince Albert Raiders forward Cole Fonstad celebrates after scoring his seventh goal of the season Tuesday night against the Red Deer Rebels.

The Prince Albert Raiders earned a measure of revenge in the only place they’ve lost a game so far this season.

In the first trip back to the Enmax Centrium since a 4-3 loss to the Red Deer Rebels on Oct. 6, the Raiders flipped the script Tuesday with a 4-3 triumph of their own to win their 17th straight game and improve their record to 24-1.

“We grounded that one out,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We ran into some penalty trouble tonight that threw our momentum out the window, and our game plan changed even more as we lost ‘Monty’ (Raiders overage forward Sean Montgomery) for the third period after he got cross checked.

“They are a gritty group and they refuse to lose. They always bring everything they have to get the win.”

On a night where the Raiders set a franchise record with their seventh straight road win, surpassing a six-game run set by the 1985-86 squad, it was the penalty kill unit that made a huge difference.

The Raiders went six-for-seven when down a skater Tuesday, with their only blemish coming late in the third period on a goal by Jeff de Wit.

“This was an evening where special teams made all the difference,” Habscheid said. “They were able to find a way to help us win with a strong effort.”

Before the penalty trouble began, the Raiders dominated the opening nine minutes of play as Spencer Moe, Parker Kelly and Cole Fonstad all scored to chase Rebels starting netminder Ethan Anders out of the game.

“I thought our first period was really good as we were able to play our game early,” Habscheid said. “Then once we started to take those penalties, that kind of threw everything out of rhythm as some guys played more and other guys didn’t take to the ice as much.

“We’re going to work on taking less penalties as we get ready for Edmonton tomorrow and stick to playing like we have when it’s five-on-five.”

Sergei Sapego led the way on offence for the Raiders as the Belarusian blueliner had three assists.

“He’s just a consistent player,” Habscheid said. “He’s multi-dimensional and he’s able to succeed in any situation that we put him in.”

Noah Gregor dished out a pair of helpers in the win, while Brett Leason had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to 25 games after being named the CHL’s player of the week earlier in the day.

Ian Scott turned aside 28 shots, with his best save coming in the third period as he slammed the door on Chicago Blackhawks prospect Brandon Hagel.

Defenceman Jacob Herauf had two assists for the Rebels, who have lost two straight games but remain in first place in the Central Division with a 16-7-1-0 record.

Zak Smith and Ethan Sakowich also scored for the hosts.

Anders made seven saves before he was pulled, while Byron Fancy stopped 17 shots in the remaining 49 minutes.

The Raiders will be back in action tomorrow night in Edmonton as they’ll take on the 14-9-2-2 Oil Kings.

Post-Game Notes

With his two-point showing Tuesday, Leason now has the third longest scoring streak in the WHL since 1996-97, which is as far back as stats go in the league website.

The longest runs were set last season when Swift Current Broncos teammates Aleksi Heponiemi and Glenn Gawdin had 28 and 27 game streaks respectively.

The Rebels were without Washington Capitals prospect Alexander Alexeyev Tuesday, as the Russian blueliner is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Defenceman Hunter Donohoe and forward Blake Sydlowski were also not in the lineup for the hosts, while the Raiders scratched blueliner Lane Kirk and forward Eric Pearce.

Tuesday’s Scores

  • Vancouver 5 Saskatoon 3 (Davis Koch – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Tri-City 5 Prince George 2 (Beck Warm – 39 Saves)

Pre-Game Notes

Wednesday’s matchup at Rogers Place will be the first of the season between the Raiders and the Oil Kings, and will feature the top two scores in the league with Leason and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Trey Fix-Wolansky.

Leason has 56 points to top all WHL players and holds a four-point advantage on Fix-Wolansky, in addition to leading the league in goals with 26.

Fix-Wolansky leads the WHL in assists with 37, while is Leason in third spot with 30 and is four helpers behind Portland’s Cody Glass.

The Raiders took three out of four meetings with the Oil Kings last year, with the Oil Kings’ lone win coming on Dec. 2, 2017 in a 4-1 affair in Edmonton.

The Oil Kings have lost their last two games but are only one point back of the Red Deer Rebels for first place in the Central Division.

They are currently without blueliners Jacson Alexander and Will Warm due to injuries.

Wednesday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Kootenay – 8 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Medicine Hat – 8 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Kelowna – 9 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Victoria – 9 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Everett – 9 p.m.