Nolan Allan scored the game winning goal in overtime, while Tikhon Chaika turned aside 33 shots, as the Prince Albert Raiders picked up one of their biggest wins of the season 3-2 over the Winnipeg ICE on Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre.
“For us, the playoffs have started,” head coach Marc Habscheid said. “These guys have taken steps. It’s new for a lot of them, but we’re the defending champs. We know what it takes. We have rings to prove it and we have banners to prove it.”
Chaika played a large role in keeping the Raiders in the game in the first period. He was forced to make a pair of saves on Mikey Milne after a pair of odd man rushes. He also made a save on a Milne breakaway bid, keeping the game scoreless. Sloan Stanick had the best chance for the Raiders in the first period on a backhand try from down low, but his shot was turned aside by Gage Alexander.
However, Jack Finley scored the opening goal of the contest with just 12 seconds left in the first, on another odd man rush for the ICE. Evan Friesen sent a cross crease pass to Finley, who was right on the doorstep to redirect the puck in past a diving Chaika. After a back and forth first period, Winnipeg went into the second leading by one.
A Raider powerplay tied things up with 7:36 to go in the second period. After the Raiders won a faceoff in the offensive zone, the puck came to the point for Nolan Allan. The defenceman sent a pass to the right circle for Ozzy Wiesblatt, who fed it down low for Sloan Stanick. From near the goal line, Stanick sent a quick touch pass in front, where it was picked up by Landon Kosior. Wasting no time, Kosior let a one timer go past Alexander. His 14th goal of the season tied the game 1-1 heading into the third period.
Cale Sanders gave the Raiders their first lead of the game 4:35 into the third period. Tayem Gislason made it all happen, walking the line and cutting towards the Winnipeg goal. Gislason threw a pass in front, where the puck deflected off of the skate of Sanders and in. His 12th goal of the year put Prince Albert on top 2-1.
Milne finally found the back of the net for the ICE with 8:57 left in regulation, after being foiled multiple times earlier in the contest. From the slot, Matthew Savoie found a cutting Milne, and sent a pass out in front. Making no mistake on this try, Milne beat Chaika blocker side for his team leading 27th goal of the season, tying the game at 2-2.
The equalizing goal from Winnipeg was the last tally of the third period, and the two teams needed overtime to find a winner.
In the overtime frame, Allan picked off a pass in the Raider zone, and chipped it ahead towards centre ice. A Winnipeg defenceman fell, giving Allan a clean breakaway in on Alexander. The defenceman took a shot low glove side that beat the netminder, and the overtime marker gave the Raiders a 3-2 win, and an all important two points.
“I saw their d-man drop the puck, and I just chipped it ahead,” Allan said. “Their guy fell so I was all alone. I was looking at the net for somewhere to shoot, and shooting was my first decision.
“This is our playoff push. Every game matters and we need all the points we can get. There’s a lot of learning to do, but I think we’ve developed well. Going into our playoff push, I think we’ll keep getting better.”
The Raiders welcome the Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Art Hauser Centre on Tuesday night. It will be another big game for Prince Albert, as the Hurricanes are one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot in the East. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
The Raiders improved to 21-28-2-1 with the win, and with 45 points on the season, they’re now just two points back of a playoff spot.
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The Hurricanes and Regina Pats also needed overtime to find a victor. Justin Hall’s overtime winner for Lethbridge gave the Hurricanes sole possession of the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with 49 points.
The Edmonton Oil Kings did the Raiders a favour, taking down the Calgary Hitmen 6-1 on the road. The Hitmen currently sit two points ahead of Prince Albert.