The Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos are poised to battle each other in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season.
But it didn't look that way Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre as the Raiders won 7-4 in a game that showed more flaws than finesse - on both sides.
Raiders captain Dustin Cameron, with three second-period goals, and teammate Brandon Herrod each netted hat tricks as Prince Albert posted its fourth straight win and fifth in six games.
Justin Maylan also scored for Prince Albert, which chased Broncos starter Morgan Clark and hurried the Swift Current debut of 19-year-old goaltender Mark Friesen, who was acquired Tuesday in a trade with the Chilliwack Bruins.
Friesen flew into Saskatoon on Wednesday and met his new teammates about an hour before the game. He was pressed into duty for the third period, after the Raiders opened a 4-1 lead on Cameron's hat-trick goal with three minutes left in the second.
"I don't think I've ever played a Western Hockey League game where two (teammates) got hat tricks in the same game," said Cameron, the 20-year-old captain of the Raiders.
"I was happy to see (Herrod) get the first of his career. It was a good night for both of us."
Herrod's hat-trick goal was an empty-netter with 1:35 left in a game that shouldn't have gone to the wire. Herrod and linemate Craig McCallum each had four-point nights.
The Raiders went up 3-0 halfway through the second period when Cameron roofed a shot to finish off a shorthanded breakaway.
It was a wide-open game in front of 1,759 fans who witnessed the good, bad and ugly of junior hockey.
"We didn't take care of our own end as well as we should have," Cameron said. "When you score seven (goals), you should be able to win, but our (defensive play) could have been a lot better. But the most important thing is we got a win."
For the second time this season, Broncos rookie Adam Lowry scored twice against the Raiders, who gave two power-play goals.
"I thought it was a very sloppy game," agreed Raiders coach-GM Bruno Campese. "Whenever you score seven goals, you don't want to be too pessimistic, but there were just too many situations in all three zones where we didn't compete as well as we should have.
"We'll take the win, but we've got some work to do. We've got Brandon here (Friday) and we visit (Swift Current) on Saturday and Regina on Sunday. It's a huge weekend, and we can't get away with that sloppy stuff."
The Broncos outshot the Raiders 40-31.
Brad Hoban and Stepan Novotny also scored for the Broncos, and defenceman Joel Rogers picked up three assists. Cody Eakin was limited to one assist. Eakin, a minus-three on the night, received big news earlier Wednesday when he was invited to the Canadian junior team's selection camp in mid-December.