WHL leading Raiders do some soul searching after setback
|The Wheat Kings celebrate Zach Wytinck’s OT winner.|
At the 3:08 mark of overtime, Wytinck got the puck at the point from teammate Chad Nychuk, skated to a midrange point in front of the Prince Albert net and drove home the deciding goal.
“Obviously, it is a pretty crazy ending to the game (with) lots of back and forth action and goals,” said Wytinck. “We wanted to get the extra point obviously.
|Zach Wytinck gets set to skate in to score his OT winner.|
“Luckily, it ricocheted in, and that is a big two points for our team.”
The win was a second in the row for the Wheat Kings, and they will take all the victories the can get at this point in the campaign. They improved to 25-22-3-4 but still six points behind the Calgary Hitmen (29-21-4-1) and the Red Deer Rebels (29-20-4-1) for the two wildcard and final playoff berths in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Wheat Kings have a game in hand on the Hitmen.
Against the Raiders, who still lead the overall WHL standings with a 46-7-1-2 mark, Wytinck believed his side played like they were in a post-season game.
“I think we had a really good win,” said Wytinck. “Our desperation level was really high, and that is where it needed to be.
“You look at the standings. We can’t waste time. We have to get wins.
|Zach Wytinck reacts to scoring his OT winner.|
The setback was a tough one for the Raiders to take as two third period leads slipped through their fingers.
The two sides entered the final frame locked in a 2-2 tie.
At the 2:48 mark of the third, import centre Aliaksei Protas potted his 10th goal of the season to give the Raiders a 3-2 advantage.
Brandon tied things up at 3-3 at the 8:43 mark of the third off an unassisted goal from centre Caiden Daley that seemed to come out of nowhere.
With 6:35 remaining in the third, Raiders star left-winger Parker Kelly drove home a power-play goal, which was his second tally of the night, to give the Raiders a 4-3 advantage.
|Parker Kelly said he needed to play better after the Raiders loss.|
Wheat Kings star right-winger Luka Burzan got the puck by an open right side of the Prince Albert net and made no mistake burying the equalizer.
Kelly finished the game with a pair of goals and an assist, but he was a minus-two in the plus-minus department.
The Camrose, Alta., product was on the ice for four of
Brandon’s five goals including Burzan’s equalizer and the overtime winner, and
that didn’t sit well with the Raiders standout, who is one of the team’s
|Ben McCartney (#22) celebrates scoring for the Wheat Kings.|
“I thought we were all pretty soft tonight myself included,” said Kelly. “It wasn’t a very great defensive game for us, and ultimately, that is what it comes down to.
“We have to change some stuff in our D-zone if we want to make a deep playoff run. I thought we were really easy to play against. I have to change myself too.
“I was really soft tonight. Ultimately, it comes down to leadership doing their job and figuring things out.”
|Aliaksei Protas scored a third period goal for the Raiders.|
Boston Bilous made 23 saves to take the overtime setback in goal for the Raiders. Jiri Patera turned away 28 shots to pick up the win in net for the Wheat Kings.
With the Raiders being rated second in the CHL’s Top 10 rankings, Kelly said opposing team’s aren’t going to give his club any free passes.
“Every team we’re playing against right now, they’re gunning for us,” said Kelly. “It has been like that all year.
“Every team we play is also pushing for playoffs. We need to start using this as practice for playoff games, because if we take our foot off the gas pedal, I don’t know if we will be able to get it back on the time playoffs come.”
|Luka Burzan scored to allow the Wheat Kings to force overtime.|
“They have a good team,” said Habscheid. “(Wheat Kings owner) Kelly McCrimmon always has a good team.
“This is no different. They played hard tonight. They played physical, and I thought we just wanted to play river hockey.
“There were some of our key guys that weren’t very good tonight.”
The Raiders and Wheat Kings go at it again on Saturday at Westoba Place in Brandon at 7:30 p.m. local time. Habscheid his team basically has to regroup in the simplest of ways.
“(We) just have to feel sorry for ourselves today, and tomorrow is a new day,” he said.
NOTES – The Raiders honoured Habscheid for picking up his 500th WHL career regular season coaching victory as a head coach before Friday’s game. Habscheid accomplished the milestone when the Raiders downed the Hurricanes in Lethbridge 6-5 last Saturday.
|Head coach Marc Habscheid and the Raiders look to regroup for Saturday.|
The Raiders were still without star right-winger Brett Leason and star netminder Ian Scott, who are both listed as day to day with lower body injuries.
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