Special teams key as Raiders top Pats

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Jakob Brook celebrates after scoring a shorthanded goal for the Prince Albert Raiders in their 6-2 win over the Regina Pats Saturday.

During the Prince Albert Raiders incredible 15-1 start, a number of different aspects of the team’s makeup have played a key role in their success.

In Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Regina Pats at the Art Hauser Centre, it was the special teams unit that stood out.

With a 3-0 lead after the first period, Noah Gregor scored on the power play with a point shot and the tandem of Eric Pearce and Jakob Brook joined forces to put home shorthanded goals on consecutive penalty kills in the middle frame.

“The players on both special teams units are putting in a lot of hard work and (assistant coach) Jeff (Truitt) has done a great job of working with the penalty kill,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“They have an understanding to go up the ice if they have a chance to do so, and that’s allowing them to get their offensive opportunities.”

In addition to having the best penalty kill in the Western Hockey League at 91.3 percent, the Raiders have also scored nine shorthanded goals so far this season, which is one off the amount they had over all of last year.

“I think the amount of speed that we have on our roster allows us to put the pressure on the other teams when they are on the power play,” Brook said.

“I know that Eric was really pressing them hard on the forecheck tonight and he made no mistakes in generating our two goals.”

The Raiders, who have now won eight straight games and are a perfect 8-0 at the Art Hauser Centre, took control of the contest early Saturday as Sean Montgomery, Justin Nachbaur and Brett Leason all lit the lamp in the first 12 minutes.

“It was a pretty dominating game for us from start to finish,” Habscheid said. “Everyone played as team and worked hard, plus we got to see that skill that each player has from playing the right way.

“We played fast, we were moving the puck well and we stuck to our systems the whole time,” Pearce added.

Pearce, Brook, Gregor and Leason all had a goal an assist each in the triumph, which saw Ian Scott turn aside 19 shots.

Nick Henry and Garrett Wright responded for the Pats, who have a 3-11 record and have lost five straight games.

Dean McNabb got the start in goal for the visitors and made 23 saves.

The Raiders will now enjoy some time off before they return to action Friday night as they’ll welcome the Kootenay Ice to the Art Hauser Centre.

Post-Game Notes

Prior to their most recent run of success, the best start at home in recent memory for the Raiders came in 2015-16 when they won their first six games at the Art Hauser Centre.

With an assist on Sean Montgomery’s first period marker, Leason extended his point streak to 16 games and also set a new career high in points with 34 by scoring later in the frame.

Lane Kirk, Kody McDonald and Sergei Sapego did not dress for the Raiders, while the Pats scratched Cole Dubinsky, Jonas Harkins, Logan Nijhoff and Brady Pouteau.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Everett 4 Swift Current 1 (Connor Dewar – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Edmonton 5 Saskatoon 2 (Trey Fix-Wolansky – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Moose Jaw 4 Medicine Hat 3 (Tristin Langan Shootout Winner – Jett Woo – Two Assists)
  • Kelowna 4 Prince George 3 (Nolan Foote Overtime Winner – Lassi Thomson – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Kamloops 6 Portland 2 (Jermaine Loewen – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Tri-City 5 Spokane 3 (Nolan Yaremko – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Seattle 5 Vancouver 1 (Matthew Wedman – Two Goals)
  • Victoria 3 Brandon 1 (Kaid Oliver – Two Goals)

Friday’s Scores

  • Everett 2 Moose Jaw 1 (Wyatte Wylie Overtime Winner – Dustin Wolf – 21 Saves)
  • Medicine Hat 8 Regina 5 (Linus Nassen – Three Assists)
  • Red Deer 4 Saskatoon 3 (Alex Morozoff Overtime Winner – Brandon Hagel – Two Goals)
  • Lethbridge 7 Calgary 6 (Igor Merezhko – Three Assists)
  • Edmonton 7 Kootenay 2 (Trey Fix-Wolansky – Two Assists)
  • Spokane 4 Portland 1 (Nolan Reid – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Kamloops 7 Seattle 2 (Zane Franklin – Three Goals – Second Career Hat Trick)

Around the WHL

The Kelowna Rockets added a big piece to their future Saturday as they signed 15-year-old forward Trevor Wong to a standard player agreement.

Wong, who was the 18th overall pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, was previously committed to the NCAA’s Denver Pioneers after putting up 141 points last year with the St. George’s School bantam varsity program.

The Vancouver product has 11 points in 10 games this season for the Greater Vancouver Canadians midget program.

On Thursday, the Saskatoon Blades acquired forward Gary Haden from the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for forward Logan Christensen.

Haden, 19, has two goals already with the Blades after recording three points in nine games with the Tigers before requesting a trade earlier this month.

The Airdrie, Alta. native had a career high 42 points with the Tigers last season.

Christensen, a 19-year-old from Lundar, Man., has two points in two games for the Tigers after starting the season with three points in 13 games for the Blades.

He recorded a career high 27 points for the Blades two years ago.

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Swift Current vs. Regina – 4 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Calgary – 4 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Edmonton – 4 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Kootenay – 4 p.m.
  • Brandon vs. Vancouver – 5 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Portland – 6 p.m.