The Matt Hewitt travelling road show made an appearance in Prince Albert on Friday and for a brief moment there was almost an encore performance.
Several times this year the Regina Pats goaltender has put up a barrier around him and helped his club record an improbable victory. The most recent was in Kamloops last week when the league-leading Blazers outshot the Pats 41-13 only to lose 2-1 in overtime.
At the Art Hauser Centre on Friday, the Raiders held a 19-3 advantage on the shot clock after 20 minutes of play, but trailed 1-0. It was much of the same in the middle session, only Prince Albert scored a pair of power-play goals to take a 3-2 lead and widen the margin in shots to 40-10.
When Adam Brooks knotted the score at 3-3 just over five minutes into the third period, the Raiders might have had a flicker of concern, but they persevered with two late goals for a 5-3 victory. The final shots on goal were 53-14.
“We knew Hewitt had done this type of thing,” admitted Raiders’ head coach Steve Young. “We just told the guys to stick to the plan.”
The Raiders looked like a focused group on Friday as they were persistent in their fore-checking, finishing off checks and chasing down loose pucks. Young says the team worked hard in practise after Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, a game which saw Prince Albert give up three unanswered goals in the third period.
“After the Lethbridge loss we had to look at everything,” said Young.
After Alex Theriau scored his first of two on the night in the opening period, the Raiders continued to put on the pressure and they were rewarded with Mike Winther’s tally just 34 seconds into the second period while Prince Albert was on a two-man power play. The goal, which was Winther’s first in six games, initiated a lengthy delay as the ice was littered with stuffed toys as part of the annual Teddy Bear Toss promotion in support of the Salvation Army and Victoria Hospital.
Anthony Bardaro then ended a lengthy scoring draught of his own when he connected on another man-advantage situation 10 minutes later. Bardaro’s first goal since Nov. 2, a span of 12 games, gave Prince Albert its first lead of the game.
Theriau, an overage defenseman who was released by the Medicine Hat Tigers when he returned from off-season hip surgery earlier this year, put the teams back on even terms just over a minute later, but Bardaro didn’t wait long to get his next marker as he sent the Raiders to the dressing room with a well-earned lead.
Regina stayed in the game with the Brooks tally, but the injury-riddled squad couldn’t hold off the Eastern Conference leading Raiders as Winther and Leon Draisaitl put the game out of reach with a pair of late tallies.
The win improves the Raiders’ record to 19-8-0-2 and leaves them one point up on the Edmonton Oil Kings for the conference lead and increases their margin in the East Division to 13 points over the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Saskatoon Blades.
“We told the players at the beginning of the year that divisional and conference games are very big,” said Young. “It’s not a major focus, but it is a reality.”
RAIDER NOTES: The Raiders and Pats will play the backend of the home-and-home series on Sunday in Regina…Young showed a rare display of emotion when he was upset with the officiating early in the game after Prince Albert was assessed a delay of game penalty. Young was livid on the bench and the 2,899 fans in attendance showed their appreciation for his reaction by voicing their displeasure to referees Colin Stefanyk and Jon Stephenson…Prince Albert was without Joey Santucci (lower-body injury), Zach Hodder and Austin Daae. Hodder and Daae were healthy scratches with Daae just having joined the team on Wednesday after moving to the club from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins…The season series between the Raiders and Pats is now all square at one win apiece...In an odd moment, Hewitt wasn’t even selected as one of the in-house game stars despite making 48 saves.