The Prince Albert Raiders might be one of the most improved teams in the Western Hockey League, but on Friday they saw that there is still work to do.
“That’s where we want to be,” said Raiders’ head coach Steve Young moments after watching his club get beat 5-2 by the visiting Portland Winter Hawks, finalists in the WHL championship series each of the last two years.
“We pushed the puck and did some good things against them,” added Young. “You are never happy when you lose, but we can learn a lot about tonight’s game.”
What the Raiders did learn was that they aren’t going to win every game as their unbeaten streak ended at eight games (7-0-0-1) to start the season. They also learned that championship teams play a full 60 minutes and that they capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
“We had some opportunities inside, but he (Portland goaltender Mac Carruth) made some key saves at big times,” said Young.
Davis Vandane opened the scoring before a season-high crowd of 3,143 at the Art Hauser Centre just over six minutes into the first period. The goal was Vandane’s second in three games since coming to Prince Albert in a trade with Spokane a week ago.
Portland tied the game 10 minutes later when defenseman Seth Jones’s shot from the point deflected off a Raider defender past goalie Luke Siemens and the score remained deadlocked at 1-1 until Derrick Pouliot and Taylor Leier scored 93 seconds apart late in the second session to put the Winter Hawks in control of the contest.
Dakota Conroy brought Prince Albert to within one early in the final frame when he stripped a Portland defender and slid a backhander between Carruth’s legs. The brilliant individual effort, which was while the Raiders were killing off a penalty to Evan Morden, gives Conroy four goals in seven games since coming to Prince Albert from Victoria shortly after the season started.
Prince Albert could get no closer, however, as Adam De Champlain and Ty Rattie sealed the win with goals in the final five minutes.
Portland finished the game with 40 shots on Siemens while the Raiders directed 28 at Carruth.
The Raiders will have little time to wallow in their first regulation loss of the season as they are in Moose Jaw tonight to take on the Warriors.
“We have to be ready to play tomorrow (tonight),” said Young. “The (Warriors) are always tough in their building.”
RAIDER NOTES: After tonight’s game in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert will play nine of their next 10 games at home…Not dressed for Friday’s contest were Mackenzie Stewart, Riley Guenther, Zach Hodder and Carson Perreaux. Hodder is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury while the other three were all healthy scratches…There was a familiar name on the Portland blueline. Layne Viveiros is the son of former Raider blueliner Emanuel Viveiros who was with Prince Albert for three seasons in the mid-1980s and was a member of the 1985 Memorial Cup championship team.