For 59 minutes, the Prince Albert Raiders held the high scoring Moose Jaw Warriors to just one goal, but it was the 60th minute that caused problems.
The Raiders gave up two goals in 24 seconds near the midway point of the third period, and fell 3-1 to the Warriors at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
“I thought we were good for 50 minutes of this game,” Raiders head coach Jeff Truitt said. “Then the last 10 minutes I thought that it kind of slipped away with a turnover that resulted in a goal, a questionable offside call—but I’d have to review the video—and then just a defensive breakdown. We left the slot wide open against that team. They can score quick and they did. I didn’t mind our game for 50 minutes, but it wasn’t enough.”
With less than 10 minutes left in the game and the two teams tied at one, the Raiders failed to clear and forward Atley Calvert beat Raiders goaltender Nathan Preston glove side for the eventual game-winner. Not long after, Moose Jaw winger Lynden Lakovic found himself all alone in front of the Raider net and converted a pass from Rilen Kovacevic to make it 3-1.
Those goals were all the Warriors needed to prevent the Raiders from recording back-to-back wins for the first time since Dec. 8.
“Clear pucks and relieve some pressure—you’ve got to get those plays done,” Truitt said when asked about the third period. “We had a turnover and it comes back down and they’ve got a lot of skill to put it in the back of the net. Then, just an unaware play (with) a guy behind us sitting in the slot. (It’s) fundamental stuff where defencemen just can’t go looking at a puck. He’s got to find a guy in the slot, and they capitalize on those chances.”
Preston’s play in goal was a big reason the Raiders entered the third period tied at one. The Penticton, B.C. product turned away 31 of 34 shots he faced in just his third WHL game, including 14 in a busy first period.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Truitt said. “Early on the power play they had a point-blank shot that he just grabbed like he’d been a first baseman all his life. That was a big save for us against a really good shooter. I thought that he made some timely saves when we needed it and controlled things. He certainly didn’t look like a guy who was in his third game. He looked very poised in there.”
The loss drops the Raiders out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot after the Calgary Hitmen beat the Edmonton Oil Kings in Edmonton. The Hitmen have three games in hand on the Raiders, who have a rematch with Moose Jaw on Saturday.
Jagger Firkus opened the scoring for Moose Jaw two minutes into the second following a scoreless first period. Firkus snapped a one-timer past Preston off a cross-ice feed from Brayden Yager on the power play, making it 1-0.
The Raiders tied things up roughly eight minutes later when Harrison Lodewyk stole the puck from Jackson Unger after the Warriors netminder skated behind the net to retrieve a dump-in. Lodewyk evaded a diving Unger and slid the puck into an empty net to make it 1-1.
The game remained tied until just past the midway point of the third period. When Calvert and Lakovic scored 24 seconds apart to give Moose Jaw the win.
The two teams are back in action Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.