The Prince Albert Raiders pushed the Seattle Thunderbirds to the brink, but in the end fell 3-2 to the number one ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League.
Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says it was a couple small mistakes that Seattle took advantage of in the one goal contest that cost the Raiders.
“We had to spend some time in our defensive zone, they are a heavy team that possess the puck and make us run around a little bit. We bent, but didn’t break it. Shows that you have to be on your toes every shift. Little mistakes against great teams can make you pay a price. We had a chance to get a puck out for a line change and it does for a line change and a duplication in the corner that opens up the slot for them. We seem to be in these guys and playing well enough but having the one little mistake that is hurting us right now.”
Neither the Raiders or Thunderbirds would find the back of the net but there would be a couple premium chances for the visitors
Max Hildebrand would make a move left to right to make a stop on a streaking Nolan Allan to keep the game scoreless.
A few minutes later, Hildebrand would make his best save of the period going right to left to make a glove save on Edmonton Oilers prospect Reid Schaefer to keep the game deadlocked at 0.
Hildebrand would make 10 saves in the first period for Prince Albert while the Raiders could only muster 5 shots on Seattle netminder Thomas Milic.
The Raiders have had strong performances in recent games from both Hildebrand and Tikhon Chaika.
Truitt says it is a luxury to have both goaltenders playing at the top of their games at the same time.
“Both guys are playing on top of their games right now. They are playing extremely well, keeping us in games making big saves and holding serve as we need them. It’s good to have one, but it’s really good to have two.”
Seattle would open up the scoring 2:07 into the second period as Kyle Crnkovic would rifle a shot that would be stopped by Hildebrand, but the former Saskatoon Blade would collect his own rebound and put it home for his 20th goal of the season to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead.
After a holding penalty to Seattle’s Jordan Gustafson, the Raider power play would go to work. Ryder Ritchie would skate end to end before dishing the puck to Niall Crocker who would tuck it home top shelf on Thomas Milic to tie the game at 1-1 at the 8:47 mark of the second period.
Just 1:19 in the third period, the Seattle Thunderbirds would reclaim the lead. In his WHL debut, Winnipeg Jets prospect Brad Lambert would step into a slapshot from the point and put it past Max Hildebrand to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. Crnkovic and Sawyer Mynio would get credited for assists on the goal.
Lambert had spent the entirety of the season split between the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and Finland prior to Saturday’s game.
Seattle would double their lead with Jordan Gustafson’s 16th goal of the season coming at the 10:12 mark of the third period. Nico Myatovic would be credited with the lone assist on the goal.
The Raiders would pull within one at the 18:21 mark thanks to Sloan Stanick who would redirect a Justice Christensen point shot past Milic to cut the Thunderbird lead to 3-2. Ryder Ritchie would also be credited with an assist on the play.
That would be as close as the Raiders would get as Thunderbird netminder Thomas Milic would turn aside 26 Raider shots to earn the victory for Seattle.
Truitt says there are plenty of positives to take away from the game as the Raiders were not intimidated by such a highly regarded opponent.
“I think they were excited about this challenge. We’ve seen a number of good teams over the last little while. The first ranked team, the fifth and the seventh and we see the second ranked team next week. They are up for the challenge. They’re not intimidated by the moment or by the upper echelon teams. We are working extremely hard to get our opportunities , sometimes we fall a little short but again it’s a close game we don’t get.”
Raider forward Niall Crocker says the team is taking a lot of confidence from Friday’s game despite the result.
“We obviously knew it was a good team. I think if we play like that, we can play with any team in the league. All four lines were rolling and doing their jobs. I’m just looking forward to Edmonton tomorrow.”
The Raiders will travel to Roger’s Place in Edmonton Saturday night for a matchup with the Edmonton Oil Kings