A two-goal lead at the Art Hauser Centre isn’t something to feel comfortable with these days.
One week ago, the Prince Albert Raiders scored twice in the first period only to lose 3-2 to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
On Friday the opposite was true as the Edmonton Oil Kings jumped into a two-goal advantage by the time the game was 14 minutes old only to see it slip away as the Raiders came from behind to record a 3-2 Western Hockey League victory before 2,974 fans at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It was one of those games where we had to compete,” admitted Raiders’ head coach Steve Young. “It was a good test for our guys.”
“We pushed, not hard, at the beginning, but as it went on we pushed a lot harder,” added Young.
Henrik Samuelsson opened the scoring with a wrist shot from high in the slot that eluded Raider goaltender Luke Siemens four minutes in and Dylan Wruck gave the defending WHL champion Oil Kings a 2-0 lead 10 minutes later.
From that point on the Raiders settled down and there was nothing going to stop them.
“We had to loosen up,” said Young. “It was a big game with great atmosphere.”
“It was a huge measuring stick for us,” added Young. “They are a team that has been to the Memorial Cup last year and have a real good chance of getting there again.”
Chance Braid got the Raiders on the board before the second period was over to narrow the deficit to 2-1 and Anthony Bardaro made amends for an earlier miscue when he banged in a rebound three minutes into the third to put the game on even terms.
Late in the second period, with the Raiders pressing, Bardaro and Dakota Conroy were in all alone on Edmonton netminder Tristan Jarry, but when Conroy fed the puck across to Bardaro, the 20-year-old sent the disk wide of the net with nothing but an open cage staring at him.
Prince Albert completed the comeback when Jonas Knutsen connected for his second of the season with just over seven minutes to play in regulation time.
Edmonton didn’t lie back, however, as they put immense pressure on the Raiders and Siemens had to make some spectacular saves including one that was reminiscent of the Marc-Andre Fleury save in the 2009 Stanley Cup final between Pittsburgh and Detroit. In that game Fleury slid across the crease with seconds left on the clock to stop Nicklas Lidstrom, who was pinching in from the point. On Friday, Siemens did exactly the same thing on Oil King defenseman Cody Corbett.
Siemens finished the game with 37 saves while Jarry was tested 29 times.
Friday’s game brought to the end Prince Albert’s longest homestand of the season – seven games - as they will take to the road tonight for the first time since Oct. 13 when they were humbled 9-0 by the Warriors in Moose Jaw. Young says the team is ready to make the trip to Regina tonight.
“I think it is important for us to get back on the road,” said Young. “Regina will be ready, but it is important to see how we do.”
RAIDER NOTES: Friday was a special night with former NHL goaltender Curtis Joseph at the game. Joseph is in Prince Albert as part of the sportsman of the year banquet tonight and during the first intermission he donned his goalie equipment and took shots from select shooters, much to the delight of the capacity crowd…The Raiders finish the homestand with a 4-2-0-1 record…The win, which extends the Raiders’ winning streak to three games, moves Prince Albert three points up on Edmonton and the Calgary Hitmen for first place in the Eastern Conference standings…The Raiders wore special jerseys for Friday’s game, sponsored by Conexus Credit Union, and following the game the jerseys were auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Raider Education Fund…Raider assistant coach Dave Manson was absent from the game as he is away dealing with a family matter…Manson and Joseph were teammates with the Toronto Maple Leafs for two seasons from 2000-02…The Oil Kings are becoming well stocked with second-generation hockey players. Following a trade with the Vancouver Giants earlier in the week, Edmonton now has four players whose fathers all played in the NHL. They are: Griffin Reinhart (Paul), Keegan Lowe (Kevin), Henrik Samuelsson (Ulf) and David Musil (Frank)…Following tonight’s game in Regina the Raiders will return home for two more games – Wednesday against Swift Current and Friday against Seattle – before taking to the road for six straight.