Raiders clinch playoff ticket with 5-1 win over Wheat Kings, Pats’ loss to ICE
It took them the full 68-game schedule to do that, but the Prince Albert Raiders clinched a playoff berth. Their 5-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre, combined with the Regina Pats’ loss to Winnipeg ICE, secured Prince Albert the eighth and final playoff spot. Evan Herman and Keaton Sorenson each scored two goals in the Raiders’ win over Brandon, while Tikhon Chaika made 19 saves. 2,935 fans packed the Hauser to see the Raiders make the playoffs for the third straight full season.
“We are the defending champions and we have a chance to defend our title,” said head coach Marc Habscheid. “It’s good, but obviously we are against it. We’re not worried about (the first round) right now, we’re just happy for the guys. They did what they had to do. »
Evan Herman broke the ice with 8:29 left in the first period on a fine play by Sloan Stanick. Working his way from the right wing to the right circle, Stanick threw a pass into the slot to the right of Herman’s boards. All the Raider forward had to do from there was direct a shot over Carson Bjarnason’s blocker, and he did, scoring his team’s 27th goal of the season. Having got off to a great start in the game, Prince Albert took a 1-0 lead and took it into the second period, also holding an 11-7 lead in shots.
Herman added his second of the night with 12:18 left in the second period, crashing into the net on his backhand. Making a cutting power move at the far post, Herman covered a backhand shot past Bjarnason to put the Raiders ahead 2-0. However, as he scored the goal, Herman collided with Bjarnason, who went headfirst into the post. Brandon’s goaltender needed help off the ice as he was obviously injured on the play. The goal stood, but Herman was assessed a penalty for goaltender interference. Ethan Kruger came in in relief for the Wheat Kings.
“That’s what we’ve been striving for all year,” Herman said of the playoffs. “Now that it’s finally here, the energy in the room right now is pretty cool. You’ve worked so hard all year to get to this point, and now we’re gearing up and looking forward to getting started and doing a good race here.
On Brandon’s power play that followed, it was the Raiders who continued to pour on offense, scoring a shorthanded goal to move up by a line. Keaton Sorenson stole a centering pass and went for runs in the offensive zone. Working on the good win, Sorenson fired a shot away from Kruger’s blocker, scoring his 11th goal of the season. It was a rude reception in the game for Kruger, who allowed a goal on his first shot of the game.
“Everyone shorthanded was aggressive and they were doing their job,” Sorenson said. “The puck sprung and bounced off the Brandon guy and I got a two-on-one. I didn’t really see the pass, so I just tried and it came in.
The Wheat Kings recovered one 11:11 into the second after a juicy rebound was left in front of the net. Chaika made an original save on a shot by Jake Chiasson, but returned the puck directly into the slot. Brett Hyland jumped all over the loose puck, scoring a goal that cut Prince Albert’s lead to 3-1 midway through the second quarter.
With no more second-period goals, the Raiders took a 3-1 lead in the third period, looking to end their regular season strong, with a playoff berth all but guaranteed with a win.
With 4:14 remaining in the third period, Carson Latimer restored Prince Albert’s three-goal lead, making it 4-1. Vlad Shilo sent a perfect right wing pass to Latimer in the slot, who received a backhand shot through Kruger. Taking a three-goal lead, the Raiders never looked back the rest of the way.
After that goal, the third period took a physical turn. With both teams dealing blow after blow and without penalties, the level of frustration seemed to rise after each shift. And with a few questionable no-calls, the Raider faithful in attendance expressed their displeasure, as the “ref you suck” chants rained down.
Sorenson added his second goal of the night with 4:05 left in the third to give the Raiders a 5-1 lead. The clock bled the rest of the way as the Raiders walked away with the win and a playoff berth, clinching the eighth seed.
“We are a team where everyone has to participate,” added Habscheid. “There are different games where different guys come in, so we just found a way. That’s what we’ve been doing all year. The beginning of the year was difficult, we are in a period of transition. We weren’t very good for a while. The playoffs seemed like a distant dream for us, but it doesn’t matter what we hope to win. It’s the pride of the Raiders, and we’ve found a way.
“It’s all about the team. You play structure, you play hard, you play together, you care about each other, you have a common goal, and great things can happen. That’s what the guys did. They found a way, and now we’re in.
The Raiders will face Winnipeg ICE in the first round of the playoffs, which begin Friday, April 22 in Winnipeg for Game 1.