The Prince Albert Raiders started their season long seven game road trip on the right foot, downing the Lethbridge Hurricanes 4-2 at the Enmax Centre on Wednesday night.
Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says it was important for Prince Albert to start the road trip with two points.
“It was real big to start the road trip this way. We found a way to win, we were down 1-0 and we weren’t playing it to the top of our game. But all in all, we found a way to get two points.”
After a first period that saw no scoring, the two sides would exchange goals in the second period.
Leo Braillard would open the scoring less than a minute into the second period with his fourth of the season at the 0:51 mark of the second period. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ethan Chadwick had the lone assist.
Braillard was claimed off CHL Import waivers earlier this season from the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Braillard had two goals this season with the Cataractes before being claimed by Lethbridge.
Cole Cairns would drop the gloves with Easton Kovacs following Cairns delivering a high hit on Aiden Oiring. As a result of the play, Cairns was assigned a five minute major for a check while Kovacs was given a two minute instigator penalty.
After two minutes of four-on-four, the Raiders would get three minutes of power play time and they would take advantage to even the score.
Brayden Dube would strike with his seventh goal of the season on the power play at the 15:23 mark of the second period. Matej Kubiesa and Justice Christensen assisted on the play.
Truitt says the power play was key for the Raiders in the win.
“It needs to be the difference and that’s what it was tonight. Our penalty kill was good against them but our power play comes up with two for us and that’s the difference of the game so it’s a key component to what we need to have to win games.”
In the dying seconds of the second period, Ryder Ritchie would strike with his 11th goal of the season to give Prince Albert a 2-1 lead after forty minutes.
The 17-year-old Ritchie would control a bouncing puck and fire a wrist shot over the shoulder of Lethbridge netminder Harrison Meneghin at the 19:22 mark.
Truitt says the goal proved to be key for the Raiders’ momentum.
“It was huge and he didn’t have a lot of room to shoot at either. It was a shortside goal and he found that area which was big but with 36 seconds left, that could be a bit of a demoralizer (for Lethbridge) when it’s a tight one-one game. Give them credit for playing a way to nullify what we’re doing. But scoring that goal was a big thing.”
Jacob Hoffrogge and Eric Johnston provided the assists.
Ritchie’s father Byron played parts of four seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, including a 126 point campaign in 1996-97 when the Hurricanes won the Presidents Cup (now known as the Ed Chynoweth Cup). Current Raider head coach Jeff Truitt was an assistant coach on that team.
Ryder Ritchie would be sprung on a partial breakaway early in the third period, but would be hooked by Tyson Zimmer forcing a penalty shot.
Ritchie would be stopped by Harrison Meneghin on the penalty shot to keep the score at 2-1 Prince Albert.
Lethbridge would get their own penalty shot later in the frame after Miguel Marques was sprung on a partial breakaway, but was hooked by Brayden Dube who was attempting to defend.
The Prince George, BC product would put his attempt on the penalty shot wide.
Shooters are 4 for 14 on penalty shots in the WHL so far this season, including Ritchie’s and Marques’ attempt.
After an interference minor called against Lethbridge’s Trae Wilke, the Raider power play would go to work. Justice Christensen would fire a point shot through traffic that would beat Meneghin for his second goal of the season at the 11:50 mark. Ryder Ritchie and Sloan Stanick assisted on the play.
Lethbridge would respond just under two minutes later as Kooper Gizowski would strike for his sixth of the season at the 13:46 mark. Elias Knoester and Blake Swetlikoff provided the helpers.
It appeared Lethbridge would tie the game just seconds later. After Max Hildebrand played a puck from behind the net, the puck ricocheted off the boards and straight to a Hurricane player. Hildebrand would make a full extension diving save to keep the Raider lead intact.
Lethbridge would press for an equalizer, but they couldn’t solve Hildebrand made 23 saves to earn the win in goal for the Raiders.
Aiden Oiring would seal the win with an empty net goal at the 18:56 mark.
Harrison Meneghin made 27 saves for Lethbridge.
The Raiders are back in action on Friday night, when they cross the border and take on the Spokane Chiefs. Puck drops at 9 p.m. Saskatchewan time.