Raiders use depth to get past Wheat Kings

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Kaiden Guhle knocks down Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Ritchie during a game in November.

Strength in numbers was the key to the Prince Albert Raiders success at the Art Hauser Centre Friday night.

Eleven of the team’s 12 forwards recorded a point for the defending Western Hockey League champions as they came away with a 6-3 triumph over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings.

“Our team has great depth and all four lines can contribute at any time of the year,” Raiders forward Eric Pearce said.

“This was a good bounce back game for us after we didn’t have our best showing in Calgary. We haven’t been home in a little bit so it was nice to have a strong performance here in front of our fans.”

Pearce and Jakob Brook had a goal and an assist each in the victory, as they and linemate Reece Vitelli caused problems for the Wheat Kings all night long.

“Reece is a really fast player and he brings a lot of speed to our line,” Brook said. “He’s smart out there and he also handles the puck well.”

“Our chemistry with Reece is really starting to build here,” Pearce added. “We’ve been able to get in on the forecheck and generate some chances lately, but we had some luck tonight as the puck went in for us.”

The Raiders moved out in front for good during the final minute of an up-and-down opening frame as Brayden Watts and Brook both scored in a 31-second span to gives the hosts a 4-2 lead.

“Those goals really helped to get our feet underneath us and settle the room down before the second period,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“It was a 6-3 result but it wasn’t an easy game. Brandon wouldn’t go away. They took space from us and created a lot of turnovers, but our guys made some good adjustments and we were able to pull through.”

Zack Hayes also had a goal and an assist for the 13-3-3-0 Raiders, while Ilya Usau dished out a pair of helpers.

Ozzy Wiesblatt and Evan Herman also scored for the hosts and Boston Bilous turned aside 19 shots.

Luka Burzan scored twice and Nolan Ritchie also lit the lamp for the 8-11 Wheat Kings, who will pay a visit to the Saskatoon Blades Saturday night.

“I thought we played well for most of the game, especially in the second period as they couldn’t keep up with us,” Burzan said.

“We need to play like that for a full 60 minutes though. If we can do that, I think we’ll be successful.”

Ethan Kruger got the start for the Wheat Kings put was pulled after allowing four goals on eight shots in the first period.

Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Jiri Patera had 11 saves in the final 40 minutes as he made his first in-game appearance since early October after being sidelined with an ankle injury.

The Raiders will return to action at the Art Hauser Centre Saturday when the Red Deer Rebels come to town for a 7 p.m. contest.

Post-Game Notes

Raiders forward Spencer Moe extended his point streak to a career high six games on Friday as he earned an assist on Brayden Watts’ first period goal.

Aliaksei Protas dished out a helper on that play for his 29th point of the season, which has him one ahead of Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens in the league scoring race.

Cole Nagy picked up his first career WHL assist in the opening frame on Evan Herman’s fourth goal of the campaign.

Luka Burzan and Ben McCartney of the Wheat Kings both extended their point streaks to five games in the loss, with McCartney’s assist on Burzan’s second period power play goal allowing to match his longest run of form in his major junior career.

Nolan Allan and Daniil Stepanov did not dress for the Raiders Friday, while the Wheat Kings scratched Connor Ungar, Jack Zayat, Jonny Hooker, Bode Hagan and Marcus Kallionkieli.

Friday’s Scores

  • Tri-City 4 Calgary 3 (Connor Bouchard Shootout Winner – Beck Warm – 46 Saves)
  • Medicine Hat 8 Kelowna 5 (Jonathan Brinkman – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Lethbridge 4 Edmonton 3 (D-Jay Jerome Shootout Winner – Calen Addison – Three Assists)
  • Moose Jaw 3 Kootenay 2 (Brayden Tracey – Two Assists)
  • Saskatoon 3 Red Deer 1 (Nolan Maier – 28 Saves)
  • Victoria 3 Prince George 1 (Tarun Fizer Shootout Winner – Cole Moberg – Two Assists)
  • Kamloops 7 Seattle 4 (Brodi Stuart – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Everett 4 Spokane 3 (Gage Concalves – Two Goals)
  • Vancouver 3 Portland 1 (Trent Miner – 26 Saves)

A matchup between the Swift Current Broncos and the Regina Pats at the Brandt Centre was postponed after a brine leak prior to the game made the ice unplayable.

A make-up date has yet to be announced.

World Under-17 Hockey Challenge

The winners of the last two World Under-17 Hockey Challenge tournaments will square off for the gold medal in Medicine Hat Saturday as the United States will take on Russia in the final.

The Russians, who won last year’s tournament in New Brunswick, had a three-point performance from Danila Iurov and a 21-save showing from Pavel Kanaev in a 4-0 win over the Czech Republic in a semifinal game in Swift Current Friday.

The Americans, who took home the title two years ago in British Columbia, got two goals from Jeremy Wilmer in a 7-3 romp over Canada White in Medicine Hat.

Prince Albert Raiders blueliner Nolan Allan and his Canada Red squad will wrap their tournament slate Saturday in Swift Current as they’ll face Sweden in the fifth place game.

Pre-Game Notes

Saturday’s meeting between the Raiders and the Rebels is the first since Prince Albert swept aside Red Deer in the opening round of last year’s WHL playoffs.

The Raiders also took three out of the four games against the Rebels in the 2018-19 campaign and have won their last four matchups with the Central Division side at the Art Hauser Centre.

Following a 3-1 setback against the Saskatoon Blades at the SaskTel Centre Friday, the 5-11-0-2 Rebels are on a three-game losing skid and are five points back of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Forward Jayden Grubbe and blueliner Kyle Masters will not be in the Rebels lineup Saturday as they finish up playing for Canada Black and Canada red at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Swift Current vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Brandon vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
  • Regina vs. Winnipeg – 7:30 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Portland – 8 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Seattle – 8 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.