Rough start costly for Raiders

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders netminder Carter Serhyenko looks back at his net while Saskatoon Blades forwards Chase Wouters and Tristen Robins celebrate during the first period of play at the SaskTel Centre Saturday.

Things went south for a hurry for the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday night.

The Saskatoon Blades scored three goals on their first four shots on net and didn’t look back from there as they picked up a 6-3 win at the SaskTel Centre and handed the defending Western Hockey League champions their fourth straight loss in the process.

“When you get that many goals scored on you that quickly, you end up on your heels,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “You want the guys to keep their composure, but it’s tough, especially when you give up five goals on the first 11 shots.

“Once we gathered ourselves up and collected ourselves a bit (after the Raiders called a timeout at the 4:32 mark of the second frame when the Blades made it 5-0), I thought we were pretty good. We carried the play for most of the game and when we did get good looks, (Nolan) Maier made some key saves for them. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that we could have completed the comeback.”

The Raiders made things interesting in the second period with a trifecta of goals and they had sustained pressure on offence during the final 20 minutes, but the Blades put the game away when Kyle Crnkovic scored on an empty net with 1:44 left on the clock.

“We came into the room and talked about how the Raiders were able to get those three goals to cut our lead after the second,” Blades overage blueliner Scott Walford said.

“These guys (the Raiders) don’t go away. There’s a reason they won the championship last year and there’s a reason that they are at the top of the East Division.”

The Blades, who have won three straight games and improved their record to 17-15-1-2, have taken five out of six meetings from the Raiders this year.

The Raiders won six of the eight matchups with the Blades last season and also topped their rivals in a six-game Eastern Conference semifinal series.

“I don’t know if there’s a key or a secret recipe or anything like that,” Walford said about the Blades’ success against the Raiders this year.

“I think we’ve really embraced the rivalry but we need to bring that intensity that we have against them to our other opponents.”

Walford led the way on offence with two goals and an assist, while Eric Florchuk and Nolan Kneen dished out a pair of helpers each.

Colton Dach, Chase Wouters and Matthew Sanders also lit the lamp for the hosts, who received a 35-save showing from Maier.

The duo of Aliaksei Protas and Ilya Usau were dominant throughout the second half of the game for the 20-11-3-1 Raiders.

Usau had two goals and an assist, while Protas wired home a shot late in the second period and also had a pair of helpers.

Carter Serhyenko got the start in his hometown but was pulled after just seven minutes of action as he gave up three goals on four shots.

“This was the first game where Carter had a tough night,” Habscheid said.

“He’s a young guy and whatever experience he gets, good or bad, is going to help him. I felt bad for him though as he’s been consistent for us.”

Boston Bilous stopped 14 shots in 51 minutes of relief work.

The Raiders, who last lost four consecutive contests during the final four games of the 2017-18 regular season, will return to the Art Hauser Centre on Monday for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Winnipeg Ice in a battle for first place in the East Division.

They will then start a four-game road swing on New Year’s Day against the Regina Pats.

Post-Game Notes

Blades forward Zach Huber served the first of a two-game suspension on Saturday for his hit to the head on Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt in the late stages of Friday’s 3-2 affair at the Art Hauser Centre.

The 19-year-old from Grandora, who will also sit out Wednesday’s meeting with the Winnipeg Ice in Saskatoon, had never been suspended in his WHL career prior to Saturday’s ruling.

Raiders forward Jakob Brook saw his night come to an end after two minutes and 41 seconds as he was given a five-minutes major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on Blades blueliner Nolan Kneen.

Aliaksei Protas increased his point streak to 11 straight games on Saturday, which is one back of Spokane Chiefs forward Eli Zummack for the longest run of form in the league.

Meanwhile, Tristen Robins is now on a seven-game point streak for the Blades and Chase Wouters has picked up a point in his last five outings.

Brayden Watts made his return to the Raiders lineup on Saturday after his trip back to Saskatchewan was delayed due to a freak snowstorm in Northern California.

In addition to Huber, Radek Kucerik did not dress for the Blades, while the Raiders scratched Eric Pearce and Tyson Laventure.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Edmonton 8 Red Deer 3 (Jake Neighbours – Three Goals and One Assist – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Everett 7 Kamloops 5 (Cole Fonstad – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Lethbridge 6 Swift Current 0 (Logan Barlage – One Goal and Three Assists – Bryan Thomson – 24 Saves – First Career Shutout)
  • Medicine Hat 3 Calgary 1 (Mads Sogaard – 33 Saves)
  • Regina 5 Moose Jaw 0 (Max Paddock – 30 Saves – Second Shutout This Season and Fourth Career)
  • Portland 4 Seattle 1 (Roddy Ross – 46 Saves)
  • Spokane 5 Tri-City 3 (Adam Beckman – Three Goals – Second Hat Trick This Season and Third Career)
  • Vancouver 6 Kelowna 2 (Cole Shepard – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Victoria 5 Prince George 1 (Gary Haden – Three Assists)
  • Winnipeg 3 Brandon 2 (Carson Lambos – One Goal and One Assist)

World Juniors Update

It was an evening to forget for Canada (1-1) on Saturday as they were shutout 6-0 by Russia (1-1) in Group B play at the 2020 World Juniors.

To make matters worse for Canada, who will be back in action against Germany (1-1) on Monday, they lost star Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexis Lafreniere in the second period with a left leg injury.

Amir Miftakhov (AK Bars Kazan) stopped all 28 shots he faced for Russia, while Canada’s Nico Daws (Guelph Storm) made 14 saves before he was pulled in the second period after his team fell behind 4-0.

Joel Hofer (Portland Winterhawks) turned aside 20 shots in a relief effort.

Germany picked up their first win of the tournament in Saturday’s other Group B affair as Moritz Seider (Grand Rapids Griffins) dished out three helpers in a 4-3 win over the Czech Republic (1-1).

In Group A action, Aku Raty (Karpat) scored twice in Finland’s (1-0-1) 8-3 romp over Slovakia (1-1) and Samuel Fagemo (Frolunda) potted a pair for Sweden (2-0) in their 5-2 triumph over Switzerland.

Round-robin play continues Sunday as Kazakhstan (0-2) will take on Finland and the United States (1-1) will square off with Russia.

Pre-Game Notes

After sweeping a weekend home-and-home series with the Brandon Wheat Kings, the 21-13-1-0 Ice are just one point back of the Raiders for first place in the East Division.

Monday’s contest will be the first of three during a seven-game span between the two sides as the Ice will host a pair of contests next weekend.

The Raiders have won both of their encounters with the Ice this season, which have taken place at the Art Hauser Centre.

The Ice will be without the services of forwards Nino Kinder and Michael Teply for Monday’s contest as they are at the World Juniors for Germany and the Czech Republic respectively.

Forward Michael Milne is currently sidelined with an upper-body injury, while Matthew Savoie left Saturday’s game against the Wheat Kings in the first period after being on the receiving end of a heavy hit by Marcus Sekundiak.

Connor McClennon will enter the evening on a seven-game point streak, while Owen Pederson has recorded a point in his last five games.

Monday’s Schedule

  • Regina vs. Brandon – 7 p.m.
  • Winnipeg vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Calgary – 8 p.m. (Will air nationally on Sportsnet)
  • Everett vs. Red Deer – 8 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Kelowna – 9 p.m.