Despite coming out on the short end of a 2-1 shootout decision in Moose Jaw, the Prince Albert Raiders have punched their ticket to the 2018 WHL playoffs.
Coming into action on Tuesday night, the Raiders needed either a victory or a Saskatoon Blades loss to clinch a playoff spot, and the latter happened while there was still plenty of time remaining in Moose Jaw, ensuring the Raiders season would carry past this weekend.
“It’s great, we’re happy for the kids. They’ve worked hard all year, they’ve done everything that we’ve ever asked and that’s all you can hope for,” commented Raider associate coach Dave Manson after the game.
The playoffs didn’t come easy for the Green and Gold, who found themselves in a hole and needing to put some wins together, which is exactly what they did over the last three weeks, rattling off nine straight wins beginning on a Central Division road swing through Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Edmonton.
“I think when we went out on that Alberta swing and were able to win three of three that really set us up when Saskatoon was kind of getting away on us there. We battled back, the kids stuck with it, and good on them.”
On the ice, the Raiders put the nine-game winning streak on the line against the league’s top team, and were in a position to keep it going after 60 minutes, tied 1-1 with the number one team in the league.
Nikita Krivokrasov scored his third of the year on a two-on-one with Eric Pearce just 3:21 into the contest to put the Raiders on the board, but the Warriors responded to draw even less than a minute later with Vince Loschiavo taking a feed from Justin Almeida and putting it home.
From there, both sides settled in battled for the remainder with neither team pulling ahead in regulation time.
In overtime, it was the same story as Ian Scott and Brody Willms continued to trade saves, forcing the match into a shootout. Scott made 36 saves on 37 shots in 65 minutes of work, while Willms stopped 27 of 28.
The streak came to an end in the shootout as Brett Howden and Jayden Halbgewachs both scored for the Warriors, while Regan Nagy and Parker Kelly were stopped by Willms.
“I thought it was a good game, both teams looked a little tired today, but it’s that time of the year. You know, we got the news that Saskatoon lost today and our playoff chances are good, and I thought we dragged it out to the end but when it comes to a shootout in can go either way,” said Manson.
Looking ahead, the Raiders focus shifts to Wednesday night’s matchup in Regina against the Pats, the third last game of the season for Prince Albert. After Tuesday night’s results, the Raiders now sit five points back of Brandon for the top wildcard spot, and would need to win their final three games, combined with two Wheat Kings losses to climb the ladder.
Regardless, Manson said there can’t be a letdown after clinching a playoff spot, and the Raiders need to be playing their best hockey.
“You want to get in a rhythm this time of year, and we want to keep ours going as does every other team. Regina’s been hot, nine and one, so they’re going to be feeling it and it’s going to be another tough game. They’ve got a good group and a deep team, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re ready to go so they don’t put up a big number.”
1-0, Raiders, Nikita Krivokrasov from Vojtech Budik, 3:21
1-1, Warriors, Vince Loschiavo from Justin Almeida and Tristin Langan, 3:55
1-0, Warriors, Brett Howden
2-0, Warriors, Jayden Halbgewachs
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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