Friday, 6 December 2019

Rockets, penalties do in Raiders

Habscheid disappointed with soft infraction calls

Nolan Foote reacts to scoring the winning goal for the Rockets.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – Marc Habscheid cut right to the chase.
    During his post-game media scrum, the Prince Albert Raiders head coach said he didn’t like the series of penalty calls given to his team after his squad forced a 1-1 tie in the third period of a WHL regular season clash with the Kelowna Rockets.
    The Raiders, who are the defending WHL champions, evened Friday’s game at the Art Hauser Centre on a power-play goal from 17-year-old centre Ozzy Wiesblatt at the 6:19 mark of the third.
    Over the final 8:07 of the third, the Raiders received four straight penalties. The first two calls resulted in the Raiders being down two men for 1:20.
    On that two-man advantage, Rockets centre Matthew Wedman, who was playing his first game with Kelowna after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Thunderbirds on Thursday, set up Rockets captain Nolan Foote with a backdoor chance.
    Foote drilled the opportunity into the Raiders goal. 
Nolan Foote scored the winning goal for the Rockets on Friday.
    That tally held up as the different in a Rockets 2-1 victory before a standing room crowd of 2,825 spectators at the Raiders 2,580 seat home facility.
    “I don’t blame referees or anything, but there were three soft calls and they talked to him (Rockets head coach Adam Foote) all night,” said Habscheid. “I don’t know if they wanted to get his autograph, because he was a Stanley Cup champion or what, but it didn’t look good.
    “They talked to him all night, (and Foote) ran line changes. He did whatever he wanted, and he slowed the game down, and they just let him do it. I don’t know if they wanted his autograph or what the deal was.
Ozzy Wiesblatt scored a highlight reel power-play goal for the Raiders.
    “That wasn’t good, because there were three soft calls there. You know our guys are accountable. Yeah, we lost, but that was not good.”
    Habscheid proceeded to add he was happy Kevin Muench, who is the WHL’s senior director of officiating, was in attendance for Friday’s contest.
    The first of the four straight penalties called against the Raiders in the final 8:07 of the third was a high-sticking infraction against rugged left-winger Justin Nachbaur. The Raiders went down two men 40 seconds later, when overage defenceman Jeremy Masella was given a cross-checking minor in a scrum along the boards.
    Foote, who won two Stanley Cup rings starring as a defenceman for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001, hinted his team might have been fortunate on the call on Masella’s infraction. The bench boss added it was important his son, Nolan Foote, netted the winner on that opportunity.
Dallon Wilton scored the Rockets first goal on Friday.
    “I didn’t see the penalty,” said Adam Foote, whose team improved to 15-8-1-2 with a second straight win. “I guess it was from behind.
    “The refs were pretty good all night, so I can’t even tell you what it was, because I didn’t see it. We have to score there for sure. If it is not, it is a huge momentum swing for them.”
    The Raiders came out with good jump in Friday’s contest outshooting the Rockets 10-3 over the opening 20 minutes.
    The Rockets got on the board at the 3:31 mark of the second via an unintended move by Raiders netminder Boston Bilous. Bilous stopped a shot from the right boards from Rockets centre Alex Swetlikoff.
    The rebound landed to the side of the Prince Albert puck stopper. Bilous tried to clear the puck but put it on the stick of Rockets left-winger Dallon Wilton.
    Wilton promptly buried the puck in the back of the Prince Albert net to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
It looked like the Prince Albert side was going persevere past that misstep after evening the score at 1-1 on Wiesblatt’s highlight reel power-play goal in the third.
Spencer Moe jets into the offensive zone for the Raiders.
    During the four-on-three chance with the man advantage, Wiesblatt got the puck on the right wing, came in on Rockets netminder Roman Basran and deked the puck around the goalie into the Kelowna net.
    That set the stage for the drama in the final 8:07 of the third resulting in the Rockets going up 2-1. The Raiders pressed with the Bilous pulled with under two minutes to play, but they couldn’t final the equalizer.
    Habscheid liked how Wiesblatt played, but the veteran bench boss said he was hoping some of his older veterans would come through with a couple of clutch plays.
    “He (Wiesblatt) is a good skilled guy,” said Habscheid, whose team fell to 18-6-4-2. “He makes good plays, and the same with (Spencer) Moe.
Roman Basran deflects a shot out wide of the goal for the Rockets.
    “We need everybody contributing. He (Wiesblatt) is 17. We have guys that are 19-years-old that need to step up too.”
    Habscheid thought his side played fairly solid defensively.
    “We just played a good team game,” said Habscheid. “We played hard, and our structure was good defensively.
    “I thought our game was good. We had some lulls at key points. A couple of our older guys made a couple of mistakes.
    “That can’t happen.”
    The Raiders converted on 1-of-3 power-play chances on Friday, while the Rockets were 1-for-8 with the man advantage.
    Bilous made 13 stops to take the setback in goal for the Raiders. Basran turned away 26 shots to earn the win in net for the Rockets.
    Basran has won five out of his last six starts, and Foote has appreciated how the 18-year-old veteran goalie has come on.
The Rockets celebrate their win on Friday night.
    “He (Basran) has really picked it up lately,” said Foote, whose team will host the CHL championship tournament - the Memorial Cup - this coming May. “He is focusing on his game.
    “He is maturing. He gave us a chance tonight, especially early. We were trying to get our feet under us, get used to playing against that type of speed.”
    The Raiders return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Moose Jaw to take on the 9-15-1 Warriors (7 p.m., Mosaic Place). The Rockets travel to Saskatoon on Saturday to face the 14-13-1-1 Blades (7 p.m., SaskTel Centre).

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