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Friday, April 12, 2024
Home Sports Raiders punch their ticket to the playoffs with 5-1 win over Wheat Kings and Pats loss to ICE

Raiders punch their ticket to the playoffs with 5-1 win over Wheat Kings and Pats loss to ICE

Raiders punch their ticket to the playoffs with 5-1 win over Wheat Kings and Pats loss to ICE
Evan Herman had two goals for the Raiders in their 5-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

It took the full 68 game schedule for them to do it, but the Prince Albert Raiders have clinched a playoff spot.

Their 5-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre, combined with the Regina Pats losing to the Winnipeg ICE, secured Prince Albert the eighth and final playoff spot. Evan Herman and Keaton Sorenson each had two goals in Prince Albert’s win, while Tikhon Chaika made 19 saves. A crowd of 2,935 filled the Hauser to witness the Raiders make the postseason for the third straight full season.

“We’re the defending champs, and we have a chance to defend our title,” head coach Marc Habscheid said. “That’s nice, but obviously we’re up against it. We’re not worried about (the first round) right now, we’re just happy for the guys. They did what they had to do.”

Evan Herman broke the ice with 8:29 to go in the first period on a nice set up play by Sloan Stanick. Stanick worked his way from the right wing to the right circle and threw a pass into the slot right on to Herman’s stick. All the Raider forward had to do from there was direct a shot over Carson Bjarnason’s blocker, and he did so, scoring his team leading 27th goal of the season.

That was the only goal of the first period, as the Raiders got off to a great start and held a 1-0 lead heading into the second, with an 11-7 edge in shots.

Herman added his second of the night with 12:18 left in the second period, crashing to the net on his backhand. After making a power move cutting to the far post, Herman roofed a backhand shot top shelf past Bjarnason to put the Raiders up 2-0.

However, as he scored the goal, Herman collided with Bjarnason, who went head first into the post. The Brandon goaltender needed to be helped off the ice, as he was clearly injured on the play. The goal stood, but Herman was assessed a goalie interference penalty. Ethan Kruger came in goal in relief for the Wheat Kings.

“That’s what we’ve been striving for all year,” Herman said about the playoffs. “Now that it’s finally here, the energy in the room right now is pretty cool. You work so hard all year to get to this point, and now we’re gearing up and looking forward to getting going and make a good run here.”

On the ensuing Brandon powerplay, it was the Raiders who continued to pour on the offense, scoring a shorthanded goal to go up by three. Keaton Sorenson stole a centering pass and was off to the races into the offensive zone. Working his way down the right win, Sorenson ripped a shot far side past Kruger’s blocker, scoring his 11th goal of the season. It was a rude welcoming into the game for Kruger, who gave up a goal on his first shot of the game.

“Everyone on the penalty kill was being aggressive and they were doing their job,” Sorenson said. “The puck kind of squirted out and bounced on the Brandon guy and I got a two on one. I didn’t really see the pass across, so I just gave it a shot and it went in.”

The Wheat Kings would get one back 11:11 into the second after a juicy rebound was left in front of the net. Chaika made an original save on a Jake Chiasson shot, but kicked the puck right back into the crease. Brett Hyland jumped all over the loose puck, banging home a goal that cut the Prince Albert lead to 3-1 midway through the middle frame.

With no more goals in the second period, the Raiders took a 3-1 lead into the third period, looking to finish their regular season strong, with a playoff berth nearly guaranteed with a win.

Carson Latimer restored Prince Albert’s three goal lead 4:14 into the third period, making it 4-1. Vlad Shilo sent a perfect pass from the right wing to Latimer in the slot, who got directed a backhand shot through Kruger. The Raiders took a three goal lead and never looked back the rest of the way.

After that goal, the third period took a physical turn. With both teams laying hit after hit and no penalties called, the frustration level seemed to rise after each shift. And with a few questionable non calls, the Raider faithful in attendance chimed in their displeasure, as “ref you suck” chants rained down.

Sorenson added his second goal of the night with 4:05 left in the third to make it a 5-1 Raider lead. The clock ran down the rest of the way as the Raiders came away with the win and a playoff berth, clinching the eight seed.

“We’re a team where everyone’s got to pitch in,” Habscheid added. “There are different games where different guys step up, so we just found a way. It’s what we’ve been doing all year. The beginning of the year was tough, we’re in a point of transition. We weren’t very good for a while. The playoffs seemed like a distant dream for us, but no matter what we expect to win. It’s Raider pride, and we found a way.

“It’s all about team. You play structure, you play hard, you play together, you care about one another, you have a common goal and great things can happen. That’s what the guys did. They found a way, and now we’re in.”

The Raiders will take on the Winnipeg ICE in the first round of the playoffs. Game one is Friday, April 22 in Winnipeg.