Todd Fiddler made his return to the Art Hauser Centre a memorable one.
The former Prince Albert Raider scored once and set up two others as the Spokane Chiefs skated away with a 7-4 Western Hockey League victory on Tuesday.
‚ÄúIt feels awesome,‚ÄĚ said Fiddler with a wide smile after helping the Chiefs extend their unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1-0) and keep their perfect record intact on their swing through the East Division (3-0-0-0). ‚ÄúI had a goal, two assists and a win, there is nothing better.‚ÄĚ
Fiddler spent a season and a half with the Raiders before being sent to Spokane almost a year ago in a deal that also included goaltender Eric Williams heading to the state of Washington in exchange for Anthony Bardaro and Luke Lee-Knight.
The 19-year-old from Meadow Lake admits he had this date circled on his calendar for a long time.
‚ÄúDecember 4th, you bet,‚ÄĚ said Fiddler. ‚ÄúI had it on my schedule and had it memorized.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThere were a lot of people from back home in Meadow Lake and my reservation Waterhen. It was great.‚ÄĚ
The Raiders, winners of their last two, and five of their last six, opened the scoring when 16-year-old Reid Gardiner netted his fourth of the season late in the first period while Prince Albert was on a power play.
That lead did not last long as Mike Aviani evened the score with his first of three on the night just over a minute later and for the remainder of the opening frame and most of the second period, Spokane played a style of game the Raiders don‚Äôt see very often.
With the Chiefs using long break-out passes and going hard to the net they jumped into a 4-1 advantage by the mid-way point of the middle frame. Aviani, with two more goals to complete his hat-trick, and Fiddler gave Spokane the cushion, but then the Raiders began to battle back.
‚ÄúWe were sticking to our plan,‚ÄĚ said Raiders‚Äô head coach Steve Young. ‚ÄúWe were getting a little frustrated in the second period there, but we settled in. It was nice to see us come back in the third.‚ÄĚ
Austin Daae, playing in his first game in Prince Albert since joining the team from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League‚Äôs Estevan Bruins last week, got Prince Albert to within two before the second intermission and then Dakota Conroy scored a pair early in the third to bring the teams back on even terms.
Prince Albert continued to control the play for most of the third period, but Spokane never backed down and with time winding down the Chiefs rediscovered their touch with Collin Vancourt, Liam Stewart and Connor Chartier scoring in the final three minutes to seal the win.
‚ÄúWe knew they were going to be tough,‚ÄĚ said Young.
Aside from the disappointment of losing the game, there was some concern among the Raiders for import forward Jonas Knutsen who hit his head hard on the ice at the end of a first-period fight with Carter Proft.
Knutsen, who is to leave for Paris, France, this morning to join his Norwegian teammates for the Division 1 IIHF world junior hockey championships in Amien, France, was in the hallway after the game and he said despite getting a couple of stitches and being knocked out, he was feeling okay.
‚ÄúI have to do a skate tomorrow, but I leave real early so I am going to see Bruno (Raiders general manager Bruno Campese) right now and see what he says,‚ÄĚ said Knutsen.
If cleared to play, Knutsen says he is expecting his team to win the gold medal at the event that is held for clubs who did not qualify for the world junior championship in Ufa, Russia, at the end of the month.
RAIDER NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Tuesday were Riley Guenther, Tim Vanstone and Joey Santucci. Guenther and Vanstone were healthy scratches while Santucci is still recovering from a lower-body injury‚Ä¶Tuesday‚Äôs game was the last home contest for Leon Draisaitl and Mark McNeill for the foreseeable future. Draisaitl leaves for Germany on Monday to begin workouts with his national junior team while McNeill will head to Calgary for the Team Canada selection camp‚Ä¶The other players involved in the Fiddler trade, who are still around, also had solid performances. Williams made 24 saves in the Spokane net and Bardaro collected a pair of assists‚Ä¶Davis Vandane, who started the year with Spokane before being dealt to Prince Albert in October, had a strong night on the Raider blueline‚Ä¶Prince Albert now heads out on a two-game road trip with stops in Kootenay on Friday and Medicine Hat on Saturday.