Two points were within their grasp, but the Prince Albert Raiders left Prince George with a bad tasting bagel in the points column.
The Prince Albert boys recovered from a slow start to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
Andrew Herle opened the scoring, converting a nice feed from Tyler Paslawski who stole the puck deep in the Cougars zone just past the 15 minute mark.
Jonathan Parker made it a 2-0 game 42 seconds later, as the Cougar defense parted like the Red Sea, allowing Parker to crash the net . He stuffed a low shot past Prince George netminder James Preistner.
Preistner would turn the tables moments later. He robbed Parker from point blank range seconds after the puck jumped over Igor Revenko's stick as the import sniper was poised to pick some cherries from the slot.
The Raiders led by a pair after one period while outshooting their hosts 17-9.
The game came unglued midway through the second period.
The Raiders failed to get the puck in deep from centre, and then turned it over deep in their own zone, allowing Sena Acolatse to tee one up from the right point. He missed, but Slovak Martin Marincin didn't, as another missed defensive assignment allowed the first pick overall in the 2010 import draft to blast the rebound from the backboards through goalie Jamie Tucker to get the Cougars on the board.
Preistner made another big save on Paslawski on an odd man rush to keep his team to within one.
Troy Bourque tied the game less than three minutes later, converting a three way passing play on an odd man rush and the game was tied at two heading to the third period.
The Cougars came out guns-a-blazing in the third.
Tampa Bay first round pick, Brett Connolly, counted the eventual winner as he one-timed a centering pass while standing all alone in front of the Prince Albert net 45 seconds into the final frame. It came just after the Raiders killed off a Cougar power play.
The Cougars would increase their lead to 4-2 just shy of the two minute mark as Greg Fraser raced from end to end. He dropped the pass to Nick Buonassissi who went top shelf after a nifty toe drag on a Raider defender.
The Raiders best opportunity came a few minutes later as Mark McNeill found his way through three Cougar defenders, but was unsuccessful in two tries to stuff one through Priestner on the far post.
Former Raider James Doborowlski said during his "Raider Warmup" pregame interview he wanted to score one for his grandpa. He did just that with just over five minutes remaining with his quick release wrister from the slot. The Cougars would cruise the rest of the way to the 5-2 victory, their first win on home ice this season.
The loss drops the Raiders to 2-2-1 on this road trip and 5-5-1 on the season.
Mark McNeill also saw his nine game point streak (the third longest in the league) come to an end.
Nathan Deck and Igor Revenko fell out of the league lead in another category – they were tied in the all-important plus-minus lead at plus 10.
It was also the first game without leading scorer Brandon Herrod, who was still stiff from crashing back first into the boards in Vancouver. He will be assessed again before the puck drops tonight in Red Deer.
The team pulled into the Central Alberta city at about 8 a.m. and will need to be much better against the Central Division leading Rebels who have two players, Byron Froese and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, among the scoring leaders in the WHL.
The Rebels are also coming off a 2-1 loss to Saskatoon despite outshooting the Blades by a two-to-one margin on Friday night.
Former Raider Steven Stanford made 40 saves to secure the win.
Game time from Red Deer is 7:30, Raider Warmup signs on right after the 7 o'clock news.
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