Saturday, 15 December 2018

Raiders outgun Broncos 7-5, head into Christmas 31-2-0-1

Sean Montgomery, centre, celebrates the Raiders teddy bear goal.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – The Prince Albert Raiders didn’t have it easy, but they kept going full steam ahead in what has been a remarkable WHL campaign.
    On Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders outgunned the majorly rebuilding Swift Current Broncos 7-5 in a WHL regular season contest before a packed standing room crowd of 2,809 spectators at the 2,580 seat facility. With the win, the Raiders remained undefeated at home at 16-0 and improved their spectacular WHL leading regular season record to 31-2-0-1.
    With star right-winger Brett Leason and star goaltender Ian Scott unavailable to the Raiders due to taking part in camp activities with Canada’s world junior team, the Raiders have found a way to put together a three game winning streak heading into their WHL Christmas break.
Jakob Brook, right, and the Raiders help with the teddy bear clean up.
    Having downed the Broncos 6-4 in Swift Current on Friday night, Raiders overage right-winger Noah Gregor said it was important for his club to find ways to win without their two star players.
    “These past two days have been probably not the way we want the game to go,” said Gregor. “Probably, it was entertaining for the fans.
    “At the end of the day, we got two big wins for us, and that is a great way to go into the break.”
    Saturday’s contest was the Raiders teddy bear toss game, and overage centre Sean Montgomery wired home the teddy bear goal at the 4:48 mark of the opening frame on a beauty set up by left-winger Parker Kelly. Montgomery’s tally gave the host side a 1-0 edge.
Overage C Sean Montgomery is having a career season for the Raiders.
    Having first joined the Raiders on a full-time basis as a 16-year-old rookie, Montgomery has put up career highs in goals (16), assists (19) and points (35). He had never scored the teddy bear toss goal, so he was happy to net that tally on Saturday.
    “There were a lot more people than I think we’ve had in other years, so it was great,” said Montgomery. “I guess the fifth time is a charm.”
    From that point, Saturday’s game turned into an old fashioned 1980s style shootout.
    The two teams exited the first period locked in a 2-2 draw. Justin Nachbaur scored his first of the night for the Raiders, while Dawson Springer and Ethan O’Rourke replied with singles for the Broncos.
Overage RW Noah Gregor scored twice for the Raiders on Saturday.
    Springer, who is a 16-year-old associate player call up from the Prince Albert midget AAA Mintos, was playing in his first career WHL regular season game, so of course, his tally for the Broncos was his first career goal in the major junior ranks.
    By the 6:08 mark of the second period, Joona Kiviniemi and Matthew Culling potted singles for the Broncos to give the visitors a 4-2 edge.
    Raiders starting goalie Donovan Buskey was pulled after the Broncos fourth goal. He stopped six of 10 shots sent his way.
    Associate player call up Brett Balas played in his first WHL game making the relief appearance. The 17-year-old, who was playing in the junior A ranks with the Calgary Canucks, stopped seven of eight shots sent his way to ultimately pick up his first career WHL victory.
Dawson Springer (#37) celebrates his first career WHL goal.
    Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was pleased his club could pick up the win despite his side having some struggles in between the pipes. He hopes to get a little better effort from his netminders going forward in Scott’s absence.
    “It is all about the win,” said Habscheid. “Some nights, you are going to have little areas that (struggle) whether it be the power play not going or the PK or certain lines, individuals or whatever, you have to find a way.
    “You need your goaltender to stop pucks. That is just the way it is. You win as a team, you lose as a team, but in the end, your goaltender is the most important player.
    “It is difficult with Scotty (Scott) away, because he is our guy. It gives the other guys opportunities too. When they get their opportunities, you want them to perform for sure.”
Justin Nachbaur (#29) watches his second goal of the game go in.
    After making the goaltending change, the Raiders hit their high gear offensively scoring four straight goals before the second period ended to go ahead 6-4.
    Nachbaur started the surge scoring his second of the night. Ozzy Wiesblatt, who is a 16-year-old rookie centre, potted the equalizer at the 12:38 mark of the frame.
    Gregor netted two straight goals to complete the surge for the Raiders. He tipped home a pass from linemate Cole Fonstad for the first goal and scored the second marker on a wraparound.
    “You don’t want to be down going into the third, so we knew that we had to come with a strong push going into the end of that second period,” said Gregor. “We did a great job of that.
    “I think every game I am trying to be a leader and trying to be an offensive guy for this team. With (Brett) Leason being out, he is a huge part of the offence. I try to push myself to try and do even more.”
Ozzy Wiesblatt had a goal for the Raiders on Saturday.
    The Broncos cut the Raiders edge to 6-5, when left-winger Alec Zawatsky scored at the 3:31 mark of the third.
    Raiders power forward Parker Kelly rounded out the game’s scoring with an unassisted marker.
    Joel Hofer turned away 49 shots in goal for the Broncos. Having won the WHL title last season, the Broncos went through a major turnover in their roster, coaching staff and hockey operation staff during the off-season.
    Now placed in a position where they are rebuilding from near scratch, the Broncos sit last in the WHL at 6-24-1-1 heading into their WHL Christmas break.
Montgomery said it was key for the Raiders to ensure Saturday’s game didn’t slip away.
    “It is probably not the way we drew it up, but we got the win,” said Montgomery. “We’re not going to complain about that.
Broncos goalie Joel Hofer gives Raiders C Spencer Moe a shot.
    “We’ve had contributions from all four lines lately. Guys are stepping up and playing up to their potential I think. It has been a really good team effort the last few games.”
    The Raiders return to action on Thursday, Dec. 27, when they travel to Saskatoon to face the Blades (7 p.m., SaskTel Centre). The Broncos get going again on Thursday, Dec. 27, when they travel to Moose Jaw to face the Warriors (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).
    Going into the break, Habscheid said his Raiders are taking time to reflect on the fact they have built a stellar record to this point in the campaign to be rated first in the CHL Top 10 rankings.
    “You might as well talk about it,” said Habscheid. “It is 31-2-0-1. It is crazy.
The Raiders celebrate their victory on Saturday night.
    “It is something we never would have thought of halfway through the season to have that record. Like we talked in there, be proud of that, but the most fun part of any hockey season is the second half.
    “They can be proud of that, go home, enjoy it and forget about the game and enjoy the record so far. We haven’t won anything yet, and we still have a lot of things we want to accomplish. The next three, four months or five months should be real interesting.”

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