The Prince Albert Raiders had a bumpy finish to their first major road trip of the WHL season.
The Raiders lost 6-2 to the Rebels on Saturday night in Red Deer to go 2-3-1 on a six-game swing through British Columbia and Alberta.
During the two-week trip, Raiders rookie centre Mike Winther scored his first two WHL goals, including the opening tally Saturday in Red Deer, which is about 45 minutes from his Trochu, Alta., home.
“I had lots of family and friends there watching, so I was happy about that,” said Winther, 16.
In front of 4,573 fans at the Centrium, he converted a pass from Austin Bourhis seven minutes into the first period. It was the first WHL point for Bourhis, who moved back to defence Saturday after a stint up front as one of Winther’s linemates.
“Austin just passed it out from behind the net, and I was in the slot and I just backhanded it over (goaltender Darcy) Kuemper’s glove,” said Winther, whom the Raiders drafted sixth overall in 2009.
In the first game of Prince Albert’s long road trip, Winther scored his first WHL goal Oct. 8 in a 4-3 loss to the Blazers at Kamloops. His father, Bill, was on hand to witness the milestone marker.
“It was good to get the monkey off the back,” Winther said. “Now, hopefully, they all start going in.
“Overall, things have been going pretty good. It’s still a learning process right now. I’m just learning from my mistakes, and just improving every day.”
Winther has dressed for all 12 games this season.
“He’s been playing well,” said Raiders coach and general manager Bruno Campese. “His ice time has been limited. We want to bring him along slowly. We don’t like rushing 16-year-olds. When he is getting the opportunity, he’s playing well.”
Prince Albert’s loss in Red Deer came just one night after a 5-2 setback against the Cougars in Prince George, B.C.
The Raiders spent Friday night on the bus and arrived in Red Deer at about 8 a.m. Saturday. After playing that night, they bused home to Prince Albert and pulled into town at about 6 a.m. Sunday.
“I think everyone is tired from the long road trip and they’re happy to get back into P.A,” said Winther, who was catching up on his sleep Sunday.
Red Deer fired 52 shots at Prince Albert rookie goaltender Eric Williams, who faced a 22-shot barrage in the second period.
The Raiders managed 23 shots overall against Kuemper, a 20-year-old goalie from Saskatoon.
Rebels forward Adam Kambeitz scored three goals in a first-star performance. Byron Froese, whom Red Deer acquired in the summertime trade that sent disgruntled star Landon Ferraro to the Everett Silvertips, added two goals.
Import forwards Andrej Kudrna of Red Deer and Igor Revenko of Prince Albert each scored one goal.
The Rebels netted back-to-back power-play goals within 1:05 early in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Kudrna scored the go-ahead goal 74 seconds after Ryan Button received an instigator penalty from a scrap with Rebels rookie defenceman Matt Dumba.
The Red Deer Advocate reported that Button jumped Dumba after the 16-year-old flattened Raiders forward Todd Fiddler with an open-ice hit.
“I really thought Dumba’s hit in the neutral zone was a real turning point,” Rebels coach Jesse Wallin told the Advocate. “That really set a tone and gave our bench a big lift. (Dumba) drew a penalty, we scored on the power play, and that to me was the turning point in the hockey game. It woke our guys up and gave us a good spark, and we took over from there.”
A penalty-filled third period included a line brawl in the final two minutes. Campese received a game misconduct after the fisticuffs.
After sitting out Friday’s game because of a stiff back, Raiders forward Brandon Herrod returned to action on a limited basis Saturday.
Defenceman Alex Petrovic and centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each picked up three assists for the Rebels, who are atop the Central Division with an 8-3 record.
The Raiders (5-6-1) sit third in the East Division, with 60 games left in their regular season. Their next four games are at home. This week, they host the Medicine Hat Tigers (4-3) on Friday and the Lethbridge Hurricanes (3-4) on Saturday.
Friday’s game marks the return of ex-Raider Ryan Harrison to Prince Albert. Harrison scored two goals Saturday to help Medicine Hat defeat Edmonton 6-4 and complete a weekend sweep of the Oil Kings. Tigers forward Linden Vey of Wakaw had four assists in Saturday’s victory at Medicine Hat Arena. Jordan Hickmott, who previously played with the Tigers and the Raiders, netted a goal and an assist for the Oil Kings (5-5), who lost again Sunday when they were blanked 4-0 by the Broncos (7-6) in Swift Current. Mark Friesen made 33 saves for his third shutout this season as the Broncos closed to within two points of the East Division-leading Saskatoon Blades (8-1).