The Keystone Cops couldn’t have written a funnier script than what was witnessed in the first nine minutes of the Western Hockey League game on Wednesday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Defensemen falling down and allowing breakaways, goals on simple shots from the blueline and a goaltender storming off the ice, before the coaches could make the move, were part of the “highlights” early in the game between the Prince Albert Raiders and Regina Pats.
After that it was no laughing matter for the Raiders as they got down to business and went on to post their highest offensive output of the season as nine different players scored in a 9-4 rout of their provincial rival. It was the second time in four days that the two clubs had squared off in Prince Albert as the Pats won in a convincing fashion on Saturday when they recorded a 5-2 victory.
“Getting those four guys back gave us a lot of emotion,” said Raiders head coach Steve Young in reference to Mark McNeill and Leon Draisaitl returning to Prince Albert after competing at the world junior championship in Ufa, Russia, while Reid Gardiner and Tim Vanstone were also back in the fold after being with Team West at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Quebec.
“Our success is going to be our depth,” added Young who was very pleased to see the offense spread throughout the team.
The crowd of 2,707 was thrilled to have their international players back in the line-up, but early in the game it looked like the entire team might be suffering from jet lag.
With the Raiders on a power play, newcomer Dylan Busenius lost his balance, and the puck, as Dyson Stevenson scooped up the loose disc at his own blueline and raced in all alone on Raider netminder Luke Siemens, beating him with a nice deke and shot into the top corner.
Regina increased its lead a minute and a half later when Lane Scheidl buried a huge rebound behind Siemens and the two minutes after that the Raiders finally got on the board when Davis Vandane fired what looked like a harmless shot from the Pats’ blueline that eluded Matt Hewitt.
Just over a minute later Regina created another turnover in their end and Chandler Stephenson finished off a three-on-one to send Siemens racing to the bench and into the dressing room.
Andy Desautels came on in relief and Young said he was proud of how the 18-year-old handled himself in that situation.
“He was a big part of our win tonight,” said Young, who admitted Siemens likely would have been pulled if not for his eager departure after allowing three goals on seven shots. “It was a good opportunity for Andy to come in and we built off of it.”
The Raiders pulled even by the end of the first period on power-play goals by Dakota Conroy and Mike Winther and after McNeill and Josh Morrissey gave Prince Albert the lead in the second period they pulled away in the third on unanswered tallies by Draisaitl, Shane Danyluk, Carson Perreaux and Anthony Bardaro.
Desautels finished the game with 19 saves to record his second win of the season while Hewitt was tested 46 times.
RAIDER NOTES: Winther celebrated his 19th birthday Wednesday by finishing the game with a goal and an assist…Defenseman Sawyer Lange played in his 100th game on Wednesday and Chance Braid will reach that milestone on Friday when the Raiders travel to Swift Current to take on the Broncos…Not dressed for the Raiders were Riley Guenther, Austin Daae and Joey Santucci as all three were victims of the numbers game…The win improves Prince Albert’s record to 25-14-0-3 and increases their lead to 10 points over the Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos for first place in the East Division standings…With the NHL lockout over there was some concern as to whether McNeill would be summoned by the Chicago Blackhawks, the club who chose the Raider captain in the first round of the 2011 entry draft. Young said on Wednesday that Chicago has indicated they have no plans to bring him up while the Raider season is on, but McNeill will most certainly be turning pro when the campaign concludes and Raider fans hope that isn’t until well into the spring.