Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Leason, Gregor get Raiders even with Oil Kings

Noah Gregor, left, celebrates his winning goal for the Raiders.
    EDMONTON, Alta. – Brett Leason and Noah Gregor came up as big gamers when the Prince Albert Raiders needed them the most.
    Playing before 7,077 spectators on Wednesday at Rogers Place, Leason and Gregor each came up with singles as the Raiders downed the host Edmonton Oil Kings 2-1 in a gritty road playoff victory.
    With the win, the Raiders even the best-of-seven series up at 2-2. Game 5 is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert with a 7 p.m. local start time.
    Wednesday’s game was a big bounce back effort for the Raiders, who had lost two straight games in the series. One of those setbacks included getting drubbed 5-1 by the Oil Kings in Game 3 on Tuesday night in Edmonton.
    Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said all the team’s coaches needed to do was have their players watch a little video to get a more inspired effort in Game 4.
Brett Leason scored for the Raiders in the second period.
    “They (the Raiders players) are smart,” said Habscheid. “We trust them.
    “Coaches and players, we get each other. We just let them watch last night’s game this morning after breakfast and just asked them after at the pre-game meal what they thought. They’re smart.
    “They just had enough, and the Raiders are back. We’re happy with our game.”
    After the two sides played through a scoreless first period, Leason gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead when he sniped home a shot from the right slot to the left corner of the Edmonton goal.
    The tally was Leason’s first point of the series with the Oil Kings.
    His goal was caused as the Raiders went into the Edmonton zone on the forecheck. Raiders overage centre Dante Hannoun was working on the right side boards against a couple of Oil Kings players, and he cause the puck to squirt out to Leason in the open.
    From there, Leason finished the play to put the Raiders ahead. He was pleased to finally net a goal again.
Noah Gregor scored for the Raiders in the third period.
    “It meant a lot,” said Leason. “I was always getting the chances, but a hot goalie and I just couldn’t get the bounces.
    “Today, I was finally able to get one, and it happened to be a big goal. It gets us as a team the momentum and kept going from there.”
    Just 2:13 into the third, Gregor gave the Raiders a 2-0 edge again with hard work on the forecheck. After getting a turnover in the Edmonton zone, Raiders rookie right-winger Ozzy Wiesblatt backhanded a pass from behind the icing line at the right side of the Edmonton goal to Gregor in front of the net, and he promptly one-timed home the insurance marker.
    Ultimately, Gregor’s goal would hold up as the game winner.
    “This is a huge game for us,” said Gregor. “We didn’t really like our performance last night.
    “We thought we could play a lot better. I thought for most of the game we did a really good job of that. I thought everyone was working hard.
Raiders fans at Rogers Place cheer one of their team’s goals.
    “We were playing with more pace tonight I thought, and it was huge to get the win.”
    On his goal, Gregor was impressed with the setup pass he received from Wiesblatt.
    “It was a great play,” said Gregor. “Ozzy (Wiesblatt) is able to make plays for a younger guy, and he made a good one there.”
    With 6:06 remaining in the third, Oil Kings third-year defenceman Wyatt McLeod received a pass from left-winger Quinn Benjafield at the point. McLeod fired a shot through a screen into the Prince Albert goal to cut the Raiders lead to 2-1.
    The Oil Kings mounted pressure in the Prince Albert zone over the final two minutes of the third but couldn’t find the equalizer.
Wyatt McLeod scored for the Oil Kings in the third period.
    Ian Scott made25 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Raiders. Dylan Myskiw turned away 25 shots to take the setback in net for the Oil Kings.
    “Obviously, I don’t think we played our best game tonight, but again, I think they brought their best game of the series so far,” said Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer. “They had a little bit more urgency in their than we did
    “In that sense, that is the outcome of the game. I didn’t think we executed. We didn’t skate like we did, but also, some of that is what they did.
    “We didn’t do a good enough job of getting away from them.”
    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. As a result, the Raiders are pegged as favourites in the Eastern Conference final against Edmonton.
    Looking back on the first three games of the series against the Oil Kings, Habscheid thought his team was missing a step, but his Raiders looked like themselves on Wednesday. He said that was the best game Prince Albert played in the series.
Ozzy Wiesblatt had a beauty assist on the Raiders winning goal.
    “We were worried about the quality of our game more than anything,” said Habscheid. “Sometimes, you don’t get the bounces.
    “Sometime, whatever happens and you don’t get the win. In playoffs, wins matter, but we needed to get our swagger, I think our speed and our determination back. We got that back tonight.
    “The win is a bonus. It is 2-2. Even if we would have let this slip, we would have felt good about our game heading back, because we played the right way tonight.”
    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.
Lauer said his team just needs to reset going into Game 5.
The Raiders celebrate their win on Wednesday night.
    “My message to them is we weren’t very good tonight, but were still right there at the end,” said Lauer. “If we bring our best game, we will be fine.
    “It is just a matter of the will and the want, and I thought they had a little bit better than we did tonight.”

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