It didn’t take Todd Fiddler long to find his comfort zone on the Prince Albert Raiders’ top line.
After scoring two goals last Saturday in a loss at Moose Jaw, Fiddler was promoted to first-line duty Wednesday and responded with a goal and an assist as the Raiders defeated the visiting Spokane Chiefs 5-2 and ended a seven-game winless streak.
Fiddler and Mark McNeill took turns setting up each other in the first period. Igor Revenko, the other member of that line, assisted on McNeill’s second goal of the night, an empty-netter with one minute left. The trio combined for six points.
“Me and Mark had some good chemistry going on, and we just worked hard,” said Fiddler, a 17-year-old winger who won the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League scoring championship last season as a member of the Beardy’s Blackhawks. “We came out hard in the first period and things went well for us.
“I just want to adjust to playing with Mark and Igor. They’re two good players. I’m just going to jump at the opportunity and go hard. Those two power-play goals (in the Moose Jaw game) gave me some confidence, and I just went from there.”
The Raiders picked up much-needed confidence with their first win in eight starts. They welcomed back co-captain Jordan Rowley, the 20-year-old defenceman who broke his right wrist Sept. 24 on opening night and missed 16 straight games.
“I was a little nervous beforehand, but I got some words of wisdom from some people and gained some confidence,” said Rowley, who went up against one of his Edmonton buddies in Chiefs overager Levko Koper.
“I just remembered that I am a vet in this league and I played it simple. A couple of shifts and I got back into it. Obviously, I’ve still got a cast, so I have to adjust a few things with stickhandling and shooting. I’m still trying to do that, as you saw tonight. I don’t know when I get this (cast) off, but hopefully pretty soon.”
A win couldn’t have come soon enough for the Raiders, whose seven-game slide included two shootout losses and an overtime loss.
Prince Albert goaltender Eric Williams continued his fine rookie season with a 34-save effort against a Chiefs team that had routed the Regina Pats 11-1 last weekend and edged the Blades 3-2 on Tuesday in Saskatoon.
Williams stood tall against Chiefs star Tyler Johnson with 10 minutes left in what was then a one-goal game. Mike Winther, who continues to make gains in his freshman season, converted a Justin Maylan pass with five minutes left to give the Raiders a two-goal cushion. Earlier in the period, Chiefs rookie goalie Mac Engel had robbed Winther.
It was a two-point night for Maylan, the man who dropped on the depth chart to make way for Fiddler’s promotion.
Maylan redirected a Tyler Yaworski point shot at 3:05 of the five-goal first period, and McNeill made it 2-0 just 1:29 later when he converted a Fiddler feed, patiently wristing the puck past Engel, the 17-year-old Red Deer product making a rare start for the Chiefs.
Spokane regrouped and evened the score 2-2 on goals from Koper and sophomore Brady Brassart, whose first goal of the season came against former Vancouver Northwest Giants major midget teammate Williams.
“It was good to get the first one against him,” said a smiling Brassart, whose Chiefs teammate Mike Aviani played with that same midget team. “It was good to see (Williams) out there. I know he’s worked hard to get there.
“The last couple of games, I’ve been working on keeping my game simple and doing the little things right, and finally something went good and I scored.”
Brassart’s one-timer from the front of the net came at 18:04, but the Raiders answered 1:45 later when McNeill won a faceoff in the Spokane zone and moved the puck ahead to Fiddler, who cashed in with 11 seconds left in the period. That goal stood as the winner, though the Chiefs put forth a worthy comeback attempt in the final 40 minutes.
“We had lots of chances, but we missed the net a lot,” Brassart said. “We did a lot of things right, but a couple of mental errors resulted in two goals against. We’ve got to be sharp all the time. That’s how you win games.”
Rowley sensed this week that the Raiders were poised to end their losing ways.
“The last two practices, it was great,” he said. “I could tell we were ready to play tonight. In the pre-game skate this morning, the energy was awesome and guys were pumped and excited.
“Everything was positive going into tonight, and that resulted in a victory. We need to do that every game and stay positive and think about the good things we’re doing. And be aware of the bad things, but take it in stride and learn from our mistakes.”
Raiders co-captain Nathan Deck (knee) sat out his fifth straight game and fellow defenceman Emerson Hrynyk (shoulder) missed his 13th in a row.
Spokane defenceman Garrett Leedahl was injured Tuesday in his hometown of Saskatoon during the Chiefs’ win over the Blades. He’s listed as day-to-day, but likely won’t play for the rest of the Chiefs’ Prairie trip, said general manager Tim Speltz. Spokane visits the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday and the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday.
The Broncos face the Raiders on Friday night in Prince Albert, where Swift Current posted an overtime win last Friday.
Wednesday night at home, the Broncos gave up a 4-2 lead and lost 5-4 to Saskatoon.