The Prince Albert Raiders were ready to ring in the New Year as they scored early and often on route to a 5-2 victory over the Regina Pats at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
The Raiders had struggled in the month of December, posting a 1-7-1-0 record across nine contests.
Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says the team played a consistent 60 minutes in the victory.
“I thought we were focused. A good response game from the other night. I like the consistency in the way that we played. Even though sometimes teams are going to hem you in a little bit, we sustained some pressure but then we found a way to respond from that pressure and generate pressure. A lot of great efforts from a lot of guys.”
Niall Crocker’s 4th goal of the season would open the scoring in the contest just 6:04 in the first period to give the Raiders the early 1-0 advantage.
The Raider lead would be doubled exactly 8 minutes later as Hayden Pakkala would find some open space in front of Pats netminder Drew Sim and would strike for his 4th goal of the season at 14:06 to double the Raider lead at 2-0. Carter Anderson would register the lone assist on the goal.
The Raiders outshot Regina 13-8 in the first period.
Prince Albert have been notorious slow starters at times throughout the season, having found themselves trailing after the first period in 19 games so far this season, posting a 1-17-1-0 record in those games.
The Raiders were able to hold the lead they gained in the first period throughout the game.
Truitt says they often run into growing pains with a young roster, but liked what he saw on Sunday afternoon.
“With a young group like this, sometimes you are giving up goals that you don’t want to give up. I thought tonight our guys played well and generated momentum. We got scoring from Pakkala and Crocker to start things off. It take some heat off the top line to score. It got us off to a good start, carried the momentum and kept the energy up.”
Rookie forward Ryder Ritchie would extend the Raider lead to 3-0 4:47 into the second period with his 7th goal of the season assisted by Sloan Stanick.
Regina would answer within a minute later at 5:17 as Braxton Whitehead was sprung on a shorthanded breakaway and he would convert on the opportunity burying his third goal of the season past Tikhon Chaika to cut the Raider lead to 3-1.
The Raiders would strike twice within the final five minutes of the second period.
Carter Anderson would strike for his 6th goal of the season at the 16:30 mark to extend the Raider lead to 4-1. Harrison Lodewyk would be credited with the assist.
Ryder Ritchie would pick up his second goal of the period in the dying seconds of the second period. Sloan Stanick would fire a shot at Drew Sim and the Pats netminder couldn’t control the rebound as the puck would go straight to Ritchie’s stick who would tap in his 8th goal of the season.
It also marked Ritchie’s first multi-goal performance of his WHL career.
Truitt says Ritchie is showing signs of having a bright offensive future.
“His game is growing. He’s showing that his offensive side is really good. He’s heavy, he’s got a knack for being around the net, puts pucks in good spots to score. He’s got a lot of potential that way, he’s 16 years of age and there’s a lot of growth left. It’s exciting to watch.”
Raiders led the shots 13-5 in the second period
Regina would chip into the lead 8:48 into the third period. Sam Oremba’s 4th goal of the season would cut the Raider lead to 5-2. Easton Armstrong would be credited with the lone assist on the goal.
Tikhon Chaika would earn the win in net for the Raiders stopping 20 of 22 Pat shots in his first game in nearly two weeks, with his last appearance coming on Dec. 14 in 3-2 home loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Truitt says he was most impressed by Chaika’s ability playing the puck.
“He hadn’t played in a bit. He did some things tonight that you characteristically you don’t see him do, playing pucks an awful lot behind the net. I thought he was very active behind the net helping out our defenceman to get rid of the forecheck. He stopped pucks and moved pucks. It sure helps our defenceman on the breakouts.”
With the win, the Raiders improve to 12-20-3-0 on the season and return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 4 when they welcome the Calgary Hitmen to the Art Hauser Centre