Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats gave the Prince Albert Raiders all they could handle, but it wasn’t enough as the Raiders came away with a 6-5 victory in front of a sold out, standing room only crowd at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday night.
Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says special teams were a big factor in the game for both sides.
“Special teams wise, both teams were successful. It took six to beat them. I didn’t think it would take six. It opened up quite a bit and some good, quality chances on both sides. It was pretty wide open that way. The score was indicative of the play.”
The first goal of the game would come courtesy of Washington Capitals prospect Alexander Suzdalev just 4:37 into the contest. The Russian forward would complete a highlight reel Michigan style goal over the right shoulder of Raider netminder Max Hildebrand to give the visiting Pats a 1-0 advantage early. The goal was unassisted.
The Pats would double the lead thanks to Prince Albert product Tanner Howe’s 25th goal of the season on the power play at the 8:52 mark. Pats captain Connor Bedard would make a strong feed to Howe on the back door who would make no mistake. Stanislav Svozil picked up the other assist on the play.
The Raiders would get one back at the 12:44 mark of the first. Owen Boucher would fire a point shot and Brayden Dube would redirect it over the shoulder of Pats netminder Drew Sim for his 5th goal of the season. Easton Kovacs would receive the other assist on the play.
Connor Bedard would pull off a sharp angle shot with just 29.9 seconds to go in the first period for his 49th goal of the season to give the Pats a 3-1 lead after twenty minutes of play. Parker Berge and Tye Spencer assisted on the play.
Truitt says the two highlight reel goals from Bedard and Suzdalev provided the sold out crowd with their money’s worth.
“Some of the plays that they made, two of the three in the first period were underneath the goal line by their guys. Pretty special players, both of them. You give those shooters good opportunities they are going to score. Those opportunities can be highlight reel packages. They got their money’s worth tonight.”
Regina lead the shots 15-7 after the first period.
Carter Anderson would cut the Raider deficit to just one with his 10th goal of the season at the 3:47 mark. Anderson would thread the needle with a backhand shot through traffic that would find the back of the Pats net. Niall Crocker would pick up the lone assist on the play.
The Raiders would draw even on the power play thanks to Ryder Ritchie at the 6:28 mark.The 16-year-old would fire his 15th goal of the season to draw the score even at 3-3. Aidan Oiring and Landon Kosior would assist on the play.
Prince Albert would take the lead at the 7:59 mark. Keaton Sorenson would find the back of the net for the 19thtime this season to give the Raiders the lead at 4-3. Ritchie and Kosior assisted on the play.
However, Pats captain Connor Bedard would even up the score on the power with his 50th goal of the season on the power play at the 17:01 mark. Tanner Brown and Borya Valis assisted on the play.
Shots were even at 20 a side after forty minutes.
The Pats would start the third period on a 5-on-3 power play after late penalties in the second period to Carter Anderson and Evan Herman.
Regina would take advantage of the opportunity as Alexander Suzdalev would bury his second of the night and 30th of the season just 1:30 into the third to give the Pats a 5-4 lead. Svozil and Bedard would assist on the play.
It was a long time coming, but the first Western Hockey League goal for Grady Martin would even the score at the 5:19 mark. The rookie forward would collect a rebound just outside the Regina crease and tuck it in on the far post past Pats netminder Drew Sim. Harrison Lodewyk and Justice Christensen would assist
Martin says it’s a good feeling to have a WHL goal under his belt.
“It means a lot. Going in and out of the lineup you got to be patient with the process and the goals to come. Hopefully there is more, I was so full of joy and it feels good to get the monkey off the back.”
Bedard would have a prime opportunity to complete the hat trick as the Regina captain would have a breakaway opportunity, but Max Hildebrand would make one of his best saves of the night with the left pad.
The Raiders would take the momentum from the save to the other end of the ice and would take the lead once again at the 9:19 mark of the third period. Aiden Oiring would collect a loose puck in front of the net and put it past Sim to give the Raiders a 6-5 lead. Sloan Stanick received the lone assist on the play.
After the Oiring goal, neither team would find the back of the net again.
The standing room only crowd of 3,299 would come to a roar in the final minute of play with the Raiders leading 6-5. The Raider faithful at the Art Hauser were so deafening that neither team would hear an offside call from the officials with only 0.3 seconds remaining.
Truitt says the crowd provided the Raiders with a much needed boost in the victory.
“It was unreal. You heard it earlier on around warmup when they started coming in it was going to be pretty electric. During the national anthem, you saw every seat filled. They got into it and once we got that first goal, they really got alive. You heard the cheering as the game went on and it was a lot of motivation for us.”
After being drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft, it was the first time Grady Martin had played in front of a sold out crowd at the Art Hauser Centre. He says it was a first time experience for him playing in front of a crowd of that magnitude.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve never played in a rink like this before. The fans were unreal today.”
Max Hildebrand earned the win in goal for Prince Albert making 32 saves in the victory. Drew Sim stopped 25 Raiders shots in the loss for Regina.
The Raiders return to action on Saturday night when they welcome the Moose Jaw Warriors to the Art Hauser Centre. The Raiders will be wearing yellow “Reverse Retro” style uniforms designed by team photographer Mark Peterson that will be auctioned off to support the President’s Choice Children’s Charity. Puck drops at 7 p.m.