Raiders light up Lethbridge

Prince Albert Raider Sean Montgomery chases after a loose puck in first period action against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on March 3 in Prince Albert. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A third period three-goal outburst helped propel Prince Albert to its sixth-straight victory

The Prince Albert Raiders are hot.

With the season winding down, the Raiders are finding ways to win, and moving ever closer to a postseason berth. Saturday night, they took on Lethbridge at home. The Raiders came in with a five-game winning streak, while the Hurricanes came in with something to prove. The teams met just 10 days ago, when P.A. stormed into Lethbridge with a big 8-2 victory, the first win on the current streak.

The Hurricanes came ready to play.

“I thought tonight we started a little slow,” said Raiders coach Marc Habscheid.

“But give them credit. They got beat 8-2 in their building, and we could tell they had a little bur in their saddle. They came out with good effort and good intensity, and they pushed us for sure.”

The Raiders turned it on as the period went on, outshooting their opponents 14-4. Despite the onslaught of offence, it was Lethbridge who scored first. On the Hurricanes’ third shot of the game, Dylan Cozens wrapped it around and stuffed it home past Ian Scott’s outstretched leg to put the ‘Canes up 1-0 nine minutes into the first.

Logan Flodell, Lethbridge’s netminder, made several key saves to hold the lead, including making multiple stops in a scrum in front, and robbing Fonstad point blank on a two-on-one chance.

It remained 1-0 as the two sides headed into the room between periods.

The Hurricanes came out strong in the second, drawing a Kody McDonald slew-footing double minor. With a minute to go in that penalty, Jeremy Masella headed to the box after taking a penalty for checking to the head.

The Raiders were able to kill off the penalties, earning chances of their own.

Lethbrige also headed to the box in the frame, giving the Raiders a chance a man up. They didn’t score, but about a minute later, Brayden Pachal picked up a pass from Justin Nachbaur, broke into the zone, raced down the wing and snapped the puck home past the glove of Flodell.

“(Jeremy Masella) made a good outlet pass to Nacho (Nachbaur), and I had a lot of speed coming through the neutral zone. Nacho hit me and I was lucky enough to put it in,” Pachal said.

“It was a big goal to get us sparked, and we took it into the third period.”

About seven minutes into the third, a Hurricanes player jumped onto the ice early, earning the side a penalty for too many men.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Spencer Moe carries the puck through the neutral zone during the second period of a game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on March 3, 2018. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The Raiders were able to take advantage of the infraction. Vojtech Budik let one go from the point, and it found its way past a screened Flodell to put the Raiders up 2-1.

“Budik’s on a roll,” Habscheid said of the defender.

About a minute later, Max Martin let one fly from the blue line, and he found twine, increasing the lead to 3-1.

The Raiders kept pouring on the pressure. With about eight minutes to go, Miske found a loose puck and shot. Flodell made the save, but was out of position. His own defenceman ran into him, knocking the goalie stick into the corner. With Flodell down, out and stickless, the loose puck bounced to Fonstad, who popped the puck into the wide open net to put the Raiders up 4-1. That was the final. Scott made 25 saves in a winning effort, while Flodell stopped 31 of the 35 shots he faced.

“Ian’s played great for us all year,” Pachal said. “You can’t say enough about all of our goaltender. They’ve kept us in every game, and they give us a chance to win every night.”

Pachal’s big goal was his second in two days. Friday night he scored in the second period while trailing 4-1 to spark Prince Albert’s comeback.

“It’s just crunch time … right now. You’ve got to bring up your game, and me as a leader, I have to show the boys that we need this,” he said.

“I think it’s me elevating my game and great passes by my teammates. I was fortunate to get a couple of goals.”

Habscheid had good things to say about Pachal after the game.

“He’s a great kid,” the coach said “He’s intense and he’s a winner. You win with those types of layers. He’s not going to lead the league in goal scoring, but he’s got some great finish he’s a great defender and he’s great in the room.”

The four points over two days, combined with Saskatoon losses to Lethbridge and Moose Jaw, puts four points between the Raiders and the Blades for the last wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Raiders are also within striking distance of the third spot in the East Division. They’re only four points behind Brandon, who lost to Swift Current Saturday, and five points back of Regina, who came from behind to beat Calgary in overtime.

“We don’t have many games left,” Habscheid said. “It’s all about the points. We got the two points, and that’s all that matters.”

The Raiders have gotten hot at the right time, boasting a 7-3 record in their last 10 games. The Blades have lost each of their last four, while the Wheaties are 4-6 in their previous 10 matchups.

The Raiders have seven games left in the regular season. They take on Edmonton at home Wednesday, and host the Warriors on Friday. Prince Albert will finish its home stand Saturday against Calgary, before hitting the road to head to Moose Jaw and Regina. They’ll end the season with a home-and-home against Saskatoon, a matchup that could end up determining the final playoff spot in the east.