Raiders late comeback isn’t enough, falling 4-2 to Oil Kings

Reece Vitelli buries his team leading sixth goal of the season in the Raiders 4-2 loss to the Oil Kings Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders had their three game winning streak halted on Wednesday night, as they came out on the wrong end of a 4-2 final to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings.

Despite the loss, head coach Marc Habscheid saw a lot of positives from his group on the ice.

“I was proud of our guys,” Habscheid said. “Edmonton has been ranked number one for a long time, and they came off of a tough loss in Saskatoon, so you knew they were upset. We had an interesting game. Structurally we got better, but more importantly, our believability got better. When those get better, now you can play.

“We started playing better, and at the end, we started taking the game over. It was a good lesson for us, good evolution for our group. But we don’t play to come close, we play to win, and our guys are getting used to that, because we have a winning mentality.”

The Oil Kings came into the Art Hauser Centre with a bitter taste in their mouths after blowing a 3-1 third period lead and losing 4-3 in overtime to the Saskatoon Blades on Tuesday.

They got on the board first on Wednesday when overage defenceman Simon Kubicek found the back of the net on the powerplay, putting the Oil Kings up 1-0 with 6:47 to go in the opening frame. Edmonton would continue to pressure the Raiders in their own end, outshooting them 13-5 in the period, but would head to the dressing room with just the one goal lead.

The Oil Kings continued to apply pressure in the Prince Albert end, and they were rewarded with two goals early in the middle frame. Another Edmonton overager, Carter Souch, found the back of the net for his third goal of the season, walking in on the left hash and ripping a shot past the blocker of Carter Serhyenko.

Souch picked off a pass behind the Raider goal just 28 seconds later and fed the puck in front of the net for Dylan Guenther. He made no mistake, placing a shot top corner over Serhyenko’s glove, making it a three goal lead for Edmonton.

Prince Albert dominated the rest of the second period after Guenther’s goal. Their best chance to score came from Keaton Sorenson, as he broke in towards Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa, working right to left, trying to put a forehand shot in the bottom left corner. Cossa managed to stick out his right pad, denying Sorenson of his fourth goal of the year.

Edmonton would end the second period still up 3-0, while the Raiders outshot the Oil Kings 22-7 in the middle frame.

“We had a chance to either let it be a 6-0 game or fight our way back, and I think that was a critical point where our guys said no, ‘we’re going to keep playing,’” Habscheid added. “We worked our way back, and it was all about our mentality.”

The Raiders would find their first goal of the night at the 1:49 mark of the third period on the powerplay. Vlad Shilo sent a one timer towards Cossa, who made the save, but he gave up a juicy rebound in the crease, and Reece Vitelli pounced on it. He jammed the puck in with Oil Kings all around the net, pulling the Raiders back to within two.

“Getting the goal there was nice to help the team out,” Vitelli said. “It gave us a little life on the bench, and it gave us some hope. It was nice to score and see the guys rise together and try and make a comeback.”

With 2:24 left in regulation and the net empty, Prince Albert capitalized again on the man advantage. It was an unconventional powerplay, with three defenceman on the ice for the Raiders. Nolan Allan let a shot from the point go, and a rebound came right to the stick of Hayden Pakkala, and he roofed a shot top corner, making it just a one goal deficit.

With 13 seconds left in the game and the net empty once again, Landon Kosior lost a puck battle at the point, and Kaiden Guhle just missed intercepting a breakout pass, allowing Jakub Demek to pot an empty net marker for his eighth goal of the year, securing the win for the Oil Kings.

While Edmonton came away with the win, Vitelli said this was a game his team can build from.

“I knew coming into the year we had a really good team. We had a tough start, but we’re gelling together now, and I’m really excited for our group and what we can do this year,” he said. “Getting those two wins against Saskatoon on the weekend really showed what we can do in this league. Teams should really watch out for us, because we’re just getting started here.”

Cossa made 42 saves on 43 Raider shots, taking home first star honours. Meanwhile Serhyenko turned aside 34 of 37 shots thrown his way.

The Raiders fall to 5-8-0-1 with the loss, while the Oil Kings pick up win number ten this season, improving to 10-3-2-1, sitting first in the Central Division.

Prince Albert will get back at it on Friday night, as they welcome the Red Deer Rebels. Puck drop is at 7pm.