Raiders return to winning ways against Blades

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Cole Fonstad skates by the Prince Albert Raiders bench after his first period goal against the Saskatoon Blades earlier this season.

Any rust that the Prince Albert Raiders showed in recent showings look to be in the rear-view mirror.

After consecutive losses at home, the Raiders turned in a solid performance Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre with a 5-2 win over the Saskatoon Blades.

“We were back to our old selves,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We stood on the puck, we played fast, we were difficult to go up against and our structure was a lot better.

“I think getting a couple early goals got us in the groove and really got our confidence going, especially as we were looking to bounce back after losing two of our last three games.”

Although the Raiders don’t need a ton of motivation when they go up against their archrivals, Habscheid gave some extra fuel to the fire ahead of Saturday’s matchup following comments that were apparently made by Blades general manager Colin Preistner.

“Word got back to us that their general manager was talking after they added some players this week and he thinks they have a better team now,” Habscheid said.

“We passed that along to our guys and that certainly gave them some extra motivation, so thanks (to Preistner) for that.”

Linemates Noah Gregor and Cole Fonstad led the way for the Raiders on offence Saturday.

Gregor had two goals and an assist in the triumph, while Fonstad found the net once and recorded a pair of helpers.

“We got challenged by our coaching staff to be more like ourselves,” Gregor said. “The two main things was to compete harder and play with pace. That was in the back of our minds tonight and we did a good job of that.”

“We were a little scrambly last night with having Brett (Leason) and Ian (Scott) back from the World Juniors and Dante (Hannoun) making his debut for us,” Fonstad added. “Everyone was thinking different things out there, but we really got on the same page tonight and everyone was contributing throughout the lineup.”

Ozzy Wiesblatt, who is on the same line as Gregor and Fonstad, recorded an assist on Fonstad’s first period marker as he made a brilliant around-the-world rush before he slid the puck over to the Montreal Canadians draft pick.

Since he took part at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November, the rookie forward has recorded 18 of his 22 points over the last 20 games.

“I’ve been able to get a lot of opportunities lately with the guys leaving to play for Canada (Scott and Leason) and Belarus (Aliaksei Protas and Sergei Sapego) at the World Juniors,” Wiesblatt said. “‘Habby’ has given me a chance to prove myself, and I’ve been fortunate enough to take advantage of that.”

“I know from experience that you have a lot of confidence when you come back to your club team from tournaments like that,” Fonstad added. “He’s been a totally different player since he returned here and he’s got a great future ahead of him.”

Leason had a pair of assists for 35-4-0-1 Raiders, who also got goals from Parker Kelly and Justin Nachbaur.

Hannoun recorded his first point in a Raiders uniform with a helper on Kelly’s third period marker, while Scott turned aside 19 shots.

Gary Haden had a goal and an assist for the 24-12-5-0 Blades, who saw their three game win streak come to an end Saturday.

Dawson Davidson also scored for the visitors, who received a 27-save performance from Dorrin Luding.

The Raiders will continue their five-game homestand Wednesday night as the Seattle Thunderbirds come to town for a 7 p.m. contest.

Post-Game Notes

Ian Scott matched his career high in wins by picking up his 24th victory of the season Saturday.

After taking 50 games to pick up that many wins last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect needed just 28 games to reach that mark this year.

Blades forward Max Gerlach extend his point streak to seven games with an assist on Dawson Davidson’s third period goal, while teammate Gary Haden now has reached the scoresheet in six straight games following his two-point night.

Already without the services of Kirby Dach and Nolan Kneen due to lower body injuries, the Blades also lost Davidson late in the game after he collided with Brett Leason and was seeing favouring his shoulder as he left the ice.

Goaltender Brett Balas and blueliner Lane Kirk did not dress for the Raiders Saturday.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Calgary 4 Medicine Hat 3 (Egor Zamula – Two Assists)
  • Portland 6 Moose Jaw 0 (Nick Cicek – Three Assists – Shane Farkas – 23 Saves – Third Shutout This Season and Sixth Career)
  • Swift Current 1 Regina 0 (Joel Hofer – 46 Saves – First Shutout This Season and Second Career)
  • Victoria 3 Red Deer 2 (Kody McDonald Shootout Winner – Griffen Outhouse – 32 Saves)
  • Spokane 8 Kootenay 4 (Ty Smith – Four Assists)
  • Kamloops 4 Kelowna 3 (Orrin Centazzo – Two Goals)
  • Everett 4 Tri-City 1 (Bryce Kindopp – One Goal and One Assist)

World Junior Recap

Kaapo Kakko, who is widely expected to be the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored with 1:32 left in the third period as Finland picked up a 3-2 win over the United States to win the World Juniors in Vancouver.

Sudbury Wolves goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkoken turned aside 25 shots for the Finns, who have now three tournaments over the last six years.

Jesse Ylonen and Otto Latvala also scored in the victory, while Sasha Chmelevski and Josh Norris replied for the United States late in the third period.

Russia captured the bronze medal earlier in the day as Kirill Slepets had a hat trick in a 5-2 win over Switzerland.

Around the CHL

While there were no trades in the WHL Saturday, a number of major moves took place in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Guelph Storm went all-in with a trio of trades, as they acquired Chicago Blackhawks forward prospect MacKenzie Entwistle (15-12-27) from the Hamilton Bulldogs for five picks, picked up Los Angeles Kings defensive prospect Markus Phillips (2-8-10) from the Owen Sound Attack for six picks and dealt four picks to the Flint Firebirds for blueliner and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fedor Gordeev (3-16-19).

Two days after acquiring Ryan McLeod from the Mississauga Steelheads, the Saginaw Spirit picked up his former teammate and Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett (19-14-33) in exchange for forward Aidan Prueter (6-13-19) and six draft picks.

The London Knights made their presence felt Friday as they added overage forward Kevin Hancock (31-31-62) from the Attack for defenceman Andrew Perrott (0-5-5) and the Sudbury Wolves’ third round pick in 2019.

Over in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the league-leading Rouyn-Noranda Huskies strengthened their squad Friday by picking up Montreal Canadiens forward prospect Joel Teasdale (19-19-38) from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for 16-year-old forward prospect Maximillien Ledoux and five draft picks.

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Lethbridge vs. Edmonton – 3 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Regina – 4 p.m.
  • Brandon vs. Saskatoon – 4 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Kootenay – 5 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Everett – 6 p.m.