Friday, 19 April 2019

Crazy bounce goal gives Raiders conference final opener

Ozzy Wiesblatt (#19) received some good luck for the Raiders.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - It was the classic story of the positive bounce goal delivering elation for one team and dejection for the other side.
    In Game 1 of the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series on Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre, the host Prince Albert Raiders were the beneficiary of the positive bounce. 
    The visiting Edmonton Oil Kings were on the other end of the coin that ultimately felt dejection.
    At the 1:48 mark of the second period, Raiders rookie right-winger Ozzy Wiesblatt swooped down the left wing of the Edmonton zone on rush.
    He ripped a backhanded centring pass to the front of the Edmonton net. The pass bounced off the stick of Oil Kings defenceman Wyatt McLeod and found a home in the open right side of the Edmonton goal.
Wyatt McLeod, right, was victim of bad luck for the Oil Kings.
    That tally by Wiesblatt was the only marker in the Raiders 1-0 victory over the Oil Kings before a sellout crowd of 3,289 spectators at the 2,580 seat building.
    Wiesblatt, who had been held pointless in his five previous post-season outings, gladly took any luck that came his way.
    “It is a big confidence boost for sure, especially after last series not playing my best,” said Wiesblatt referring to his team’s six game victory over the Saskatoon Blades in a WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series. “I think good teams find a way, so it was nice to get that bounce.
The Raiders celebrate Ozzy Wiesblatt’s goal.
    “We’ve been working on that in practice just getting as many pucks on net as we can. Luckily, it went in.”
    McLeod was dumbfounded by what occurred in that part of the contest noting he wasn’t trying to shoot or pass the puck in that moment.
    “It was a two-on-two,” said McLeod. “(Oil Kings defenceman) Conner (McDonald) did a good job playing his guy.
    “The puck came to the centre, and I just lost track of it and in off my stick so a tough bounce on that one.”
    While Wiesblatt’s goal gave his side a victory in Game 1, the Calgary, Alta., product said his team wasn’t overly happy with their performance coming off an emotional series win over their archrivals in the Blades. He was already looking forward to Game 2 of the series set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
    “I think it wasn’t our best performance for sure,” said Wiesblatt. “I think we’re just going to come back tomorrow and do a lot better.”
Ian Scott made 26 saves to pick up the shutout win for the Raiders.
    McLeod thought his side played better as the night went on. The Oil Kings were playing their first game after eight off days following their WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series sweep of the Calgary Hitmen.
    “I think we did a fairly good job of weathering their (the Raiders) push early,” said McLeod. “I think about after the 10-minute mark of the first we finally got really skating to what we think is capable.
    “In saying that, I think we still have another gear to give. We’ll bring it tomorrow.”
    Ian Scott turned away 26 shots to pick up his second shutout of the post-season in goal for the Raiders.
    The only time he looked shaky was on the Oil Kings first shot of the game, which went to a video review to ensure the puck didn’t go across the goal-line of the Prince Albert net. The review showed Scott kept the puck out.
Dylan Myskiw turned away 23 shots in goal for the Oil Kings.
    From that point onward, Scott was solid. He had to be particularly sharp in the third period, when the Oil Kings carried an 11-3 edge in shots on goal.
    Inside of the final 30 seconds of the third, Scott kept the puck out of his net during a couple of fire drill scrambles. One scramble came after Scott denied Oil Kings captain Trey Fix-Wolansky on a drive from the left side wall.
    The rebound from Fix-Wolansky’s shot went in front of the Prince Albert net, and Scott stopped two more chances before covering the puck.
    Overall, Scott felt his defensive unit had a solid game in front of him.
    “I thought they were pretty good,” said Scott. “(There were) lots of key (shot) blocks at really important times.
    “When you get that it is a big thing in playoffs.”
The Art Hauser Centre faithful cheer on the Raiders.
    In order to stay focused in goal, Scott tried to stay feeling a little loose as opposed to be uptight.
    “You just have to keep having fun,” said Scott. “It is playoffs.
    “It is not hard to get up for those games. As long as you keep it even keel it will be good.”
    At the other end of the rink, Dylan Myskiw stopped 23 shots to take the setback in net for the Oil Kings.
    Overall, Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer liked how his team played on Friday. He felt good about how his team responded to the raucous atmosphere in the Raiders home rink.
    Lauer said the Edmonton coaches tell their players to throw the puck on net, because you never know what can happen. He added the Raiders also followed that philosophy on Wiesblatt’s goal.
    “It was one of those things where we just couldn’t find that one shot,” said Lauer. “I think we learned an awful lot.
Cole Fonstad gets set to fire a shot on goal for the Raiders.
    “We will be better tomorrow.”
    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.
    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.
    Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said he expects the Eastern Conference final to be a competitive series. When the dust settled on Friday, the veteran bench boss said the big thing was his side picked up the positive result.
    “It is a win,” said Habscheid. “That is what matters in playoffs.
    “They are a good team. We knew that, but they proved it tonight they are a good team. I think we can be much better.
    “We didn’t really have what seemed like our legs tonight, but they played well. Our guys did what they had to do.”
    NOTES – The Raiders had star left-winger Cole Fonstad back in their lineup after he missed two games with an undisclosed injury.
Ian Scott, left, and Zack Hayes celebrate the Raiders win.
    Raiders physical forward Justin Nachbaur sat out the second of a two-game league imposed suspension for receiving an interference major penalty and a game misconduct in his club’s Game 5 win over the Blades. Nachbaur is expected to dress for the Raiders in Game 2 of their series with the Oil Kings on Saturday.

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