Watts leads Raiders past Wheat Kings

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward Brayden Watts celebrates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Hitmen last season.

East Division lead back to six points ahead of Sunday meeting with Winnipeg

Brayden Watts has been a handful for WHL defences this week.

The Prince Albert Raiders overage forward recorded his third two-goal game in the last five days and also had an assist on linemate Alikasei Protas’ first period marker as he helped his team pick up a 4-2 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings at Westoba Place Saturday night.

“He’s a special kid,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “Prince Albert’s a long way from Bakersfield and he loves it here.

“Brayden went through a lot of hardship last spring (when his Vancouver Giants side lost the league final to the Raiders) and he’s been a rallying point for our team. The guys know how tough it was for him to be on the other side of that result and then he came over to the team that beat him, so he to relive those feelings over again. He knows that he has a chance to be on the right side of the ledger this year and I think that really motivates him and the guys that are around him.”

Following a 3-2 overtime setback to the Wheat Kings at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday, the Raiders had a much-improved effort according to Habscheid as they increased their lead in the East Division to six points.

“We were playing pond hockey out there last night and that doesn’t work,” Habscheid said. “We have to play together and play hard and we did a much better job tonight of filling in the holes and taking away space from them.

“It’s still not the perfect game but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Protas and Ozzy Wiesblatt had a goal and an assist each for the 36-17-6-4 Raiders, while Max Paddock turned aside 28 shots in his hometown.

Luka Burzan dished out a pair of helpers for the 35-22-4-2 Wheat Kings, who saw a four-game win streak come to an end on Saturday and don’t play again until a home meeting with the Regina Pats next Friday.

Ben McCartney and Reid Perepeluk both scored for the hosts, who received an 18-save showing from Jiri Patera.

The Raiders will have a chance to extend their East Division lead on Sunday at 5 p.m. as they’ll conclude their weekend by taking on the Winnipeg Ice.

Post-Game Notes

The Raiders took four out of six meetings over the Wheat Kings this year, which is the fourth time in the last five seasons that they have accomplished this feat.

The only exception came during the 2017-18 campaign as each team won three games.

Wheat Kings forward Ridly Greig recorded an assist on Ben McCartney’s goal to extend his point streak to eight games, while Cole Reinhardt was held off the scoresheet and saw his five game run of form come to an end.

Matthew Culling and Graydon Gotaas did not dress for the Raiders, while the Wheat Kings scratched Nolan Ritchie, Riley Ginnell and Rylan Thiessen.

Saturday’s Scores

  • Spokane 6 Calgary 3 (Eli Zummack – Five Assists)
  • Seattle 5 Everett 2 (Andrej Kukuca – Two Goals)
  • Kelowna 5 Lethbridge 4 (Matthew Wedman – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Medicine Hat 4 Edmonton 1 (Mads Sogaard – 36 Saves)
  • Portland 5 Victoria 4 (Cross Hanas Overtime Winner – Seth Jarvis – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Prince George 4 Vancouver 3 (Cole Moberg Overtime Winner – Josh Maser – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Red Deer 4 Swift Current 3 (Ben King Overtime Winner – Two Goals)
  • Saskatoon 5 Regina 4 (Kyle Crnkovic Overtime Winner – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Kamloops 8 Tri-City 1 (Kyrell Sopotyk – One Goal and Two Assists – Kamloops wins the B.C. Division for the first time since 2012)
  • Winnipeg 7 Moose Jaw 1 (Owen Pederson – Two Goals and One Assist)

Pre-Game Notes

Sunday’s matchup is the final one of the regular season between the Raiders and the Ice, with the defending WHL champions currently holding a 3-2 advantage.

Following a pair of wins over the Moose Jaw Warriors, the 36-24-1-0 Ice are in third place in the East Division standings and just three markers back of the Brandon Wheat Kings with two games in hand.

They also have a game in hand on the Saskatoon Blades, who are two points behind them in fourth spot.

Second-year forward Michael Milne is currently on a five-game point streak, which is the longest of his WHL career.

Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Michal Teply enters Sunday’s contest in a tie for the rookie scoring lead with Edmonton’s Dylan Guenther (59 points) and with Logan Stankoven of Kamloops for the most goals by a first year player with 28.

Connor McClennon remains sidelined with a collarbone injury but could be back in the Ice lineup prior to the playoffs.

Sunday’s Schedule

  • Prince Albert vs. Winnipeg – 5 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Tri-City – 5 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Portland – 6 p.m.
  • Everett vs. Seattle – 6 p.m.