Raiders centre Reid Gardiner is having a breakout season with 11 points in 12 games. Herald photo by Perry Bergson.
In a rough 1-2-1 road trip, the Prince Albert Raiders scored three goals with the goalie pulled in two separate games to force overtime and collect some valuable points in the Eastern Conference standings.
With the net empty and the extra attacker on the ice, the Raiders overcame deficits in the closing minutes of play twice during their four-game road stand; last Friday against the Red Deer Rebels and again on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Down 2-1 in Edmonton on Tuesday, Raiders center Reid Gardiner scored with less than 20 seconds remaining in the third period to tie the game and force overtime, lifting the Raiders to their only win of the trip, a 3-2 shootout victory over the Oil Kings.
“It says a lot about our character,” Gardiner said of the team’s ability to come back late in games. “Cory (Clouston) preached early in the season that we have to be a team that plays a whole 60 minutes. I think it says a lot about how we play and how we are going to play right to the very end all the time.”
The Raiders have not won in regulation since Oct. 2, a 4-1 victory over the Rebels.
Gardiner said the team will make the most of their four day break before taking on the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday.
“We have a couple practices here the next couple of days to refocus,” Gardiner said. “We need to have a good week of practice and preparation and we’ll be ready on Sunday.”
The Raiders were 4-4-0 against the Warriors last season and Sunday’s game will be the Raiders first of eight against the East Division rivals who currently sit eleventh in the Eastern Conference with a record of 4-5-1.
Warriors defenseman Travis Brown, who is tied for seventh overall in league scoring with 17 points, is the only player on the roster with points in the double digits with 3 goals, 14 assists.
Projected to go in the first or second round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Warriors center Brayden Point, has seven points with three goals, four assists.
Raiders center Leon Draisaitl tallied two points in the four-game road trip as he continues to develop chemistry with linemates Gardiner and left wing Craig Leverton.
“It’s helping my game a lot,” Gardiner said of skating on the Raiders top line with Draisaitl. “He’s finding me in spots where I can shot the puck and ultimately score.”
Gardiner has six goals this season, two of which Draisaitl tallied an assist including Gardiner’s game-tying mark on Tuesday.
“He’s a very talented guy, I love playing with him,” Gardiner said. “He’s probably the best player I’ve played with. We are feeding off each other. We try to find each other in open ice and we’ve found chemistry with Craig Leverton on the left side and we hope that continues in the next couple games.”
Gardiner is having a breakout season in his sophomore year, already scoring over half of his 20 points from last season with 11 points in 12 games.
Overlooked by scouts, Gardiner was snubbed from the Under-18 team Canada roster this summer, providing extra motivation for the 17-year-old Humboldt native.
“I am trying to out play those guys who were invited to that camp (Canada under 18) and I think just having success during the year is a big part of why the motivation is there. It definitely fuels my fire to do better every day,” Gardiner said.
The puck drops at 3 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday.