The rivalry is alive and well between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades.
In the first of four straight games between the provincial rivals, the Raiders used a shootout goal by veteran Leon Draisaitl to complete the comeback and remain undefeated with a 3-2 triumph in Western Hockey League pre-season action on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It’s always fun to play these guys,” said Raider winger Mike Winther who was back in the line-up after a brief audition with the Dallas Stars prospects last weekend. “I’m happy we came out with the win.”
The Blades, who look like they have their final line-up intact, came out flying in the first period and built up a 2-0 advantage on goals by Nathan Burns and Matt Revel before Prince Albert began the climb out of the hole.
Gage Quinney cut the deficit in half when he deflected a shot from the point past Saskatoon goaltender Alex Moodie in the second period and with just under 10 minutes left in regulation time Darcy Zaharichuk redirected a perfect feed from Shane Danyluk into the Blades goal.
Each team had glorious scoring opportunities in the five minutes of overtime, but Draisaitl was the lone goal scorer in the shootout to seal the victory.
There was also plenty of physical play to energize the rivalry as Prince Albert’s Sawyer Lange and Ayrton Nikkel from the Blades squared off in the first period while Tim Vanstone from the Raiders and Ryan Coglan from Saskatoon had a major dust-off in the second frame.
There was also a mild scrum at the end of overtime after a wild goalmouth scramble in front of Moodie denied the Raiders a go-ahead marker.
For Winther, who is entering his fourth season with Prince Albert, the play of the rookies on the Raiders excited him and although he admitted he was a bit disappointed in not getting a longer look with Dallas he says the upcoming season holds a lot of promise.
“It was a good time in Traverse City, but you know what, they (Dallas) did something different this year where they brought all the older players back to main camp and got the younger players back with their junior teams.”
“I’m just excited to get back here,” added Winther. “We had a bit of a slow start in the first period, but everyone played well as the game went on.”
The rivalry continues tonight with a final tune-up game in Warman and the Raiders and Blades will open the regular season next weekend with a game at Credit Union Centre on Friday before Prince Albert unveils its new uniforms to its fans on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
RAIDER NOTES: Rookie goaltender Nick McBride played the whole game for Prince Albert making 25 saves in addition to three more in the shootout. Moodie faced 35 shots in the Saskatoon goal…Prince Albert was without defenseman Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg camp) and Chance Braid (Washington camp) and both are expected to be in the line-up for their respective teams tonight when those two clubs square off on Hockey Night in Canada…Other players not dressed for the Raiders included defensemen Tyler Dea and Riley Guenther along with forwards Lance Yaremchuk, Dylan Stewart and Spencer Meyer. Overage netminder Cole Cheveldave also did not dress as he sat out the game with a minor injury. In his place as the back-up was 17-year-old Rylan Parenteau who was summoned back to the team after being reassigned last week.