Friday, 28 December 2018

Raiders deliver energized home faithful big win over rival Blades

The Raiders celebrate an empty-net goal from Cole Fonstad, centre.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – The Prince Albert Raiders delivered an ending their supporters will never get tired of.
    On Friday before a season high 3,130 spectators at the 2,580 seat Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders rallied back from a 2-1 deficit to down their archrivals the Saskatoon Blades 4-2. With 9.1 seconds remaining in the third period, star left-winger Cole Fonstad took a pass from linemate Noah Gregor and fired home an empty-net goal to seal the win.
    After Fonstad’s tally, the packed crowd did their best to raise the roof off the building as the Guess Who’s “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” echoed through the Art Hauser Centre’s rafters.
    “The building was alive,” said Raiders netminder Donovan Buskey, who team won their fifth straight game. “Both teams competed so hard.
Netminder Donovan Buskey makes one of his 34 stops for the Raiders.
    “It was a great atmosphere in there and two good rivals for sure. It feels good to come in and hopefully do a bit better for these guys. They work really hard for me every night, so I need work hard for them.”
    With star goalie Ian Scott playing for Canada’s world junior team in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., Buskey took on the temporary role as the Raiders starter before the Christmas break. He had some rough outings and was pulled after allowing four goals in the Raiders final game before the Christmas break on Dec. 15, which they eventually won 7-5 over the Swift Current Broncos at the Art Hauser Centre.
    The 18-year-old Calgary product had a strong performance on Friday making 34 saves to help the Raiders improve their WHL leading record to 33-2-0-1 and improving their undefeated record at home to 17-0.
Noah Gregor fires home his second period equalizer.
    Prince Albert is rated first in the CHL’s Top 10 Rankings.
    With the Blades holding a 2-1 lead, Buskey came up with a huge save with under 30 seconds to play in the second period. Blades star 17-year-old centre Kirby Dach gathered a loose puck and got in alone in front of the Raiders net looking to score a highlight reel goal, but Buskey came out of his crease and made the pad stop.
    Raiders defenceman Zack Hayes got a hold of the puck and sprung Gregor on a breakaway. The star overage centre roofed home his second goal of the game and 23rd of the year with 20.3 seconds remaining in the second to square things up at 2-2.
    “It was pretty crazy,” said Gregor. “I had a break before, and then they went back and Bus (Buskey) makes a huge save.
    “I go back the other way and tie it up. That was huge save for Bus.”
    In the third, import centre Aliaksei Protas took a pass from offensive defenceman Max Martin on a rush and wired a mid-height shot past Blades netminder Dorrin Luding with 9:27 remaining in the frame.
Aliaksei Protas had the winning goal for the Raiders.
    That set the stage for Fonstad to cement the win with his empty-netter.
    While the Raiders finished off the win, the third period was fairly evenly played with the hosts holding a 10-8 edge in shots on goal in the stanza.
    Blades left-winger Gary Haden thought his team responded well after Gregor tied the contest late in the second period following Buskey’s big save.
    “There are turning points throughout every game,” said Haden. “If Kirby (Dach) scores that highlight goal, it is probably on plays of the year, and we are up 3-1 going into the third.
    “You have to give him (Buskey) credit, he made a big save. (Noah) Gregor has an NHL shot. It is just the way the game goes.
    “I thought we responded pretty well from it. We didn’t get too down on ourselves. We came out and played a hard third.”
    The Blades also played a hard opening frame too. They went ahead 1-0 at the 5:25 mark of the first period, when Haden knocked home a power-play goal at the right side of the Prince Albert net.
    The Raiders drew even at 1-1 just 20 seconds into a five minute major penalty assessed to Blades defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus. Gregor got the puck in the left slot and wired home his 22nd goal of the season.
Raiders C Brayden Pachal (#8) and Blades D Dawson Davidson scrum it up.
    Schuldhaus was given a kneeing major and a game misconduct after colliding with Martin. Martin left for the remainder of the opening frame but returned after the first intermission and set up the Raiders winning goal in the third period.
    Schuldhaus’s hit will be automatically reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
Before the opening 20 minutes ended, the Blades went back in front 2-1, when Norwegian import left-winger Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen potted his ninth of the year from in front of the Raiders net.
    The big hits, scrums and some rough stuff continued in the second period. Raiders centre Kody McDonald received a double minor for high sticking Blades defenceman Seth Bafaro and drawing blood in the second frame.
Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen (#24) celebrates scoring for the Blades.
    McDonald’s infraction will also be automatically reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
    Haden, who came to the Blades in a trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers earlier this season, was impressed the intensity that exists in the rivalry between Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
    “Everybody kind of warned me when you go to P.A. it is a war, and I got the first taste of that,” said Haden. “If things work out, hopefully, we get them in the playoffs, and it would be quite the series to be a part of.”
    Luding turned away 32 of 35 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades, who fell to 21-11-5.
Spencer Moe looks to make a centering pass for the Raiders.
    With his two goals and one assist on Friday night, Gregor has points in his last five straight games recording nine goals and four assists over that stretch. Fonstad finished with a goal and an assist on Friday to allow him to also have points in five consecutive games. He has two goals and 10 assists over that stretch.
    With star right-winger Brett Leason playing for Canada at world juniors, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was pleased with the offensive production those two veterans have had playing on a line with rookie 16-year-old right-winger Ozzy Wiesblatt.
    “I think that line on its own has a little bit of synergy,” said Habscheid. “Fonstad has really come back after Christmas with an extra step.
    “That line has just played well. We’ve needed them. We’re out two pretty good players.
    “We just keep trying to find a way to win.”
The Raiders celebrate their win on Friday over the Blades.
    The Raiders return to action on Sunday, when they host the Regina Pats at 6 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. The Blades return to action on Sunday, when they travel to Swift Current to take on the Broncos at 4 p.m. at the Credit Union i-Plex.

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