One gets the sense that Cory Clouston is going to be a hard coach to please.
Despite winning both ends of a season-opening doubleheader against the Saskatoon Blades, including a 6-5 decision in the home-opener on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre, Clouston was rather stoic in assessing his team’s performance.
“It was not good enough, really,” said Clouston, who is in his first year behind the Prince Albert Raider bench after having previous tours of duty in the Western Hockey League with the Kootenay Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings. “To me, my concern is complacency in the third period.”
“I’m very happy with most of our play, I’m not upset,” added Clouston. “We (just) need to be better. When you build leads complacency sets in. We just have to play the full 60 minutes.”
The Raiders were held off the scoresheet in the final period of Friday’s season-opening 6-1 win in Saskatoon on Friday and then after building a large lead on Saturday once again let their foot off the accelerator.
After Saturday’s game was delayed for 20 minutes to accommodate the pre-game ceremony of player introductions, the Raiders dominated the early going, but found themselves trailing the Blades 2-0 by the time the game was less than seven minutes old.
Rookie Matteo Gennaro, with his first of the season, and overage defenseman Dylan Busenius got the Raiders back on even terms before the first period was over, but moments after Busenius wired a blast from the point he was given a questionable boarding major and game misconduct for a hit on Nikita Scherbak behind the Raider goal.
Clouston said that after watching the video replay of the incident he had no answer as to why the call was made since that is “how we teach them to make a check.”
Ryan Graham finished off a nice three-way passing play eight minutes into the middle session to give the Blades the lead once again, but Prince Albert took over the game from that point – until the latter stages at least.
Sawyer Lange and Gage Quinney put Prince Albert in front after 40 minutes of play and Dakota Conroy and Leon Draisaitl tallied in the third, but the Blades never quit.
A good example of that was on the Raiders’ fifth goal when Prince Albert was on a two-man advantage. Saskatoon defenders blocked five shots and it was an odd bounce off a skate that finally beat Blades’ netminder Troy Trombley.
Saskatoon kept coming at the Raiders and goals by Collin Valcourt, his second of the game, and Nick Zajac cut the deficit to one. With the clock winding down Nelson Nogier and Brett Stovin missed glorious opportunities to get the equalizer behind Raider netminder Cole Cheveldave.
“We overcame some adversity (at the start) and made a pretty good game of it,” said Lange. “We got a little off track, but we know we have systems and if we stick to them we will do fine.”
RAIDER NOTES: Matt Revel had the game’s first goal for the Blades…Prince Albert outshot the Blades 32-29…Attendance was 2,793…The win was Clouston’s 250th as a head coach in the WHL…Prior to the game their was a moment of silence for Jordan Boyd, the 16-year-old hockey player who tragically passed away while attending a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League training camp in August…The Raiders sat out the same five players on Saturday as they did in Saskatoon on Friday – Tyler Dea, Lance Yaremchuk, Dylan Stewart, Darcy Zaharichuk and Josh Morrissey, who is still at the Winnipeg Jets camp…Prince Albert returns to action on Friday when they will host the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first of a weekend doubleheader at the Art Hauser Centre. Prior to Friday’s game three more names will be added to the Raiders’ Wall of Honour. They are: former defenseman Brad McCrimmon and long-time volunteers Doug Winterton and Jim Bristowe.