Friday, 5 April 2019

Raiders day – P.A. smashes Saskatoon 6-1 in Game 1

Sean Montgomery, centre, celebrates his hat trick goal for the Raiders.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – It was a great night for cheering, if you were a fan of the Prince Albert Raiders.
    A sellout crowd of 3,289 at the 2,580 seat Art Hauser Centre had lots to cheer and relish on Friday night as the host Raiders thumped their hated rivals the Saskatoon Blade 6-1 in Game 1 of a best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series. Game2 of the series is set for Sunday at 6 p.m. at Art Hauser.
    In the romp, the Raiders showed why they finished first overall in the WHL regular season standings posting a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    The victory was do definite that the Blades, who finished fourth overall in the WHL with a 45-15-8 mark and were an honourable mention in the final CHL Top 10 rankings, looked like they didn’t belong on the same ice surface as the Raiders.
Sean Montgomery jets into the offensive zone for the Raiders.
    Going into the series, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid accused the Blades of embellishment and taking dives in order to draw penalties. It is a classic hockey tactic where a bench boss tries to plant a seed in possibly the mind of the officials to try and get an advantage in the series.
    As far as Game 1 was concerned, that whole situation became a non-story. If the rest of the series plays out like Game 1 did, the Raiders figuratively could sweep the best-of-seven series against the Blades in three contests.
    The fans at the Art Hauser Centre weren’t going to show their rivals any sympathy either.
    During a television timeout with 12:56 remaining in the third period, the Blades pulled starting netminder Nolan Maier, when they were down 5-1. Maier turned away 31-of-36 shots taking the setback in goal for the Blades.
    Associate player call up Koen MacInnes, who turned 17-years-old in January and was playing for the Burnaby Winter Club Prep team, stopped two of three shots in relief to mark his debut in the WHL.
Parker Kelly scored twice for the Raiders on Friday.
    Dorrin Luding, who is the Blades regular backup goalie, was sidelined with an upper body injury.
    When MacInnes took the ice to play goal, the Raiders fans chanted, “We want Maier.”
    That was a move that showed no mercy and mirrored the crowds that pack Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Man., to cheer on the NHL’s Jets.
    Overage centre Sean Montgomery, who is a career member of the Raiders, posted his first career hat trick in the WHL having played 345 regular season games and 17 post-season contests.
    Star right-winger Brett Leason had a goal and three assists. Combined with what his father Darryl accomplished as the quarterback of the Regina Rams football team in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Leason family is 6-0 against Saskatoon based teams in the post-season.
The Raiders fans cheer on their team at the Art Hauser Centre.
    Veteran pesky star right-winger Parker Kelly also popped home a pair of goals for the Raiders.
    Still, Friday’s game started out as a competitive one.
    At the 3:47 mark of the opening frame, Montgomery popped home his first of the contest from in front of the Saskatoon net to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
    Less than two minutes later, the Blades evened things up at 1-1, when captain Chase Wouters knocked home the rebound of a shot taken by overage rearguard Brandon Schuldhaus.
    With 7:53 remaining in the first, Leason backhanded home the rebound of a shot taken by veteran Raiders defenceman Jeremy Masella to give the host side a 2-1 edge.
Brett Leason had a goal and three assists for the Raiders.
    Heading into the first intermission, the Raiders held a slim 12-11 edge in shots on goal.
    At that point, the Prince Albert side hit high gear, while the wheels fell off for Saskatoon.
    With 8:21 remaining in the second, Leason one-handed a pass from the left boards to Montgomery, who sniped his second tally of the night to the top left corner of the Saskatoon goal to give the Raiders a 3-1 advantage.
    Prince Albert extended its advantage to 4-1 with 2:18 remaining in the second period, when Kelly chipped the puck home from the right side of the Saskatoon goal after receiving a smart pass from import defenceman Sergei Sapego.
    Montgomery recorded his hat trick goal at the 5:51 mark of the third with the Raiders working the power play. Kelly rounded out the game’s scoring with a power-play goal of his own with 6:20 remaining in the third.
    Kelly’s power-play tally came with Blades standout right-winger Ryan Hughes serving a double minor for high-sticking.
A Raiders fan has a sign for the Blades.
    That infraction will trigger an automatic review by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
    Ian Scott made 23 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Raiders.
    The Raiders delivered hits that pleased their faithful too. Rookie right-winger Ozzy Wiesblatt rocked Blades star centre Kirby Dach into the right corner boards of the Saskatoon zone in the second period.
    Sophomore Raiders centre Eric Pearce nailed Blades import defenceman Emil Malysjev hard into the right corner boards of the Saskatoon zone in the third period.
    Had Friday’s game been a heavyweight fight, the referee would have stopped the proceedings and declared a technical knockout in favour of the Raiders. The building started playing “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” with 3:58 remaining in the third period.
The Raiders celebrate their Game 1 victory on Friday.
    The solace Blades head coach Mitch Love and his team can take was the fact Friday’s contest was only one game. The Raiders can’t carry over any of their goals into Game 2 on Sunday.
    The Blades know they can be better. If they can regroup and post an upset win on Sunday, the series becomes a different one when the scene switches to Saskatoon for Game 3 on Tuesday.
    For now, fans in “Hockey Town North” are celebrating a Friday that was the Raiders day.

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