|Aliaksei Protas (#21) smiles after scoring a first period power-play goal.|
On Friday, the Belarusian import rookie left-winger had the most memorable night of his short WHL career. Protas, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 192 pounds, posted his first career hat trick in the major junior ranks and added an assist powering his Prince Albert Raiders to a 4-0 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The win in Game 5 of the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series set off a party atmosphere among the sellout crowd of 3,289 spectators at the 2,580 seat Art Hauser Centre.
|Aliaksei Protas had his first career WHL hat trick on Friday.|
“I was so happy,” said Protas. “It was unforgettable for me.
“I was so happy, same for the boys and same for the fans. It was just the biggest night for probably for my career.”
Protas got the party started for the Raiders sniping a power-play goal from the right side boards in the Edmonton zone at the 11:31 mark of the opening frame.
The “Viper” from Vitebsk struck again struck again with 2:57 remaining in the first period on a bit of a lucky shot. He was trying to pass the puck to linemate Brett Leason, and the puck found its way into the Edmonton goal putting the Raiders up 2-0.
|Brett Leason had a big third period goal for the Raiders.|
“He is an intelligent player,” said Habscheid. “He is just smart.
“He is still finding his legs. He is still growing. His skating will come.
“He is good with the puck. He has a great shot as you saw, so he compliments those two real well.”
While the Raiders dominated play in the second frame, they weren’t able to increase their edge.
They put the game away in the third. At the 5:22 mark of the third, Leason took a pass from Protas and jetted into the Edmonton zone down the right wing.
|Brett Leason celebrates his third period goal.|
Leason enjoyed benefiting from the fact his linemate had a good game.
“He (Protas) is a good guy,” said Leason. “He doesn’t produce every night, but when he does, it is big for the team.
“Today is a great example. He put the team on his back and put together a big performance to get us the win.”
Protas completed his hat trick with 24.9 seconds remaining in the third to round out the 4-0 final.
“It is a big night for everybody,” said Protas. “We just took the lead in the series, so everybody is all happy.
“We just have to keep going, just play our game and just play physical and play fast.”
|The Raiders faithful cheers one of their team’s goals.|
Kelly threw about five or six big hits on Friday night, and thought the crowd reaction after the hits seemed louder than his collisions.
“That first one there in the first period where I kind of came down the pipe and caught a guy that was pretty loud,” said Kelly. “I think that was the loudest I’ve heard the crowd after a hit for a while.
|Dylan Myskiw made 26 saves for the Oil Kings on Friday.|
Defencemen Kaiden Guhle and Belarusian import Sergei Sapego each had two assists.
Ian Scott made 24 saves to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Raiders. The shutout was the third one Scott has earned in the post-season.
Dylan Myskiw turned away 26 shots in goal for the Oil Kings.
Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer said his team needed to play better and gave credit to the Raiders for pulling out the win.
|Parker Kelly (#27) threw a number of big hits for the Raiders.|
“I’m not saying we didn’t deserve penalties,” said Lauer. “I’m not saying that.
“The calls they called on us there were infractions going against us the same way, and they didn’t get called. To me, that is a choice.”
Lauer said he expected he will likely get a $1,000 fine for going off on the officials in his post-game media scrum on Friday. He said he had to stand up for his players.
“The head officials were here, there should be an evaluation there too,” said Lauer. “For me, it is unacceptable to be in the third round to have zero power plays.
|Ian Scott made 24 saves to pick up the shutout win.|
“Our five-on-five game was fine in the first period.”
While he was critical of the officials, Lauer said he will still be telling his players their effort needs to be better on Sunday.
“There is no doubt we have to be better as a team,” said Lauer. “I’m not letting our guys off the hook.
“We will be better in Game 6. What happened tonight with the officials was wrong.”
Prince Albert finished first overall in the WHL’s regular season posting a 54-10-2-2 record and was rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. As a result, the Raiders are pegged as favourites in the Eastern Conference final against Edmonton.
The Oil Kings topped the Central Division and finished fifth overall in the WHL standings with a 42-18-4-4 mark, and they were an honourable mention in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
|The Raiders salute their fans following Friday’s win.|
Habscheid said his squad is already looking forward to the next task at hand, which is trying to close out the series on Sunday.
“We haven’t won anything yet,” said Habscheid. “They are a good team over there.
“Now we have to go to their building for an afternoon game, so we’re not going to get too excited about this.”
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