Saskatoon Blades forward Cameron Hebig tries to chip the puck past Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Josh Morrissey during second period action at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon on Friday evening. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
SASKATOON - The Prince Albert Raiders reign of terror over their Bridge City rival has come to an end, falling 3-1 to the Saskatoon Blades on Friday at the Credit Union Centre.
The Raiders dropped their first game in six meetings with the Blades this season, losing their second straight as their record fell to 22-20-2.
Blades backstop Troy Trombley stopped 41 of 42 shots in the two team's first meeting since the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline which prior too, players from both sides traded uniforms in a series of deals between the Raiders and the Blades.
A combination of stellar goaltending and bad luck led to the Raiders demise, Raiders coach Cory Clouston said.
"It was one of those games where we just couldn't buy a goal," Clouston said. "It's very frustrating especially considering the situation that we are in where we are fighting for a playoff spot, those are two big points."
It appeared as if the Raiders were primed for an offensive onslaught, winning the opening draw and securing the puck in the offensive zone where it stayed for just over three minutes.
Despite the strong start, the Raiders surrendered the opening goal after coughing up the puck in their own zone allowing left wing Cory Millette to beat Raiders starting goalie Cole Cheveldave on a breakaway six minutes into the first period.
Outshooting the Blades 13-8 , the Raiders were denied on several scoring opportunities by Trombley who stoned Raiders centre Jayden Hart on a two-on-one chance late in the first period to keep the Blades ahead 1-0 going into the second frame.
The Raiders continued to outshoot their opponent in the second period but were again held off the board, failing to beat a solid Trombley, making his 27th appearance between the pipes this season.
Clouston commended the play of Trombley, who blanked the Raiders on five power play opportunities, saying he was "the best player on the ice."
Taking their 1-0 lead into the third period, Friday's tilt marked just the tenth time this season the Blades have held a lead through 40 minutes of play.
With left wing Collin Valcourt and defenceman Graeme Craig both facing their former team for the first time since being dealt to the Raiders in two separate deals, Valcourt said having his Blades buddies join him in Prince Albert has helped with the adjustment.
"It's been good," Valcourt said of joining the Raiders along with Craig and defenceman Ryan Coghlan. "It's easier with all three of us coming in, but at the same time, guys are guys and we are all going to get along somehow."
Trombley continued his strong performance in the third period, blanking the Raiders on a pair of power play opportunities, stopping 13 shots in the final frame.
The Blades added an insurance goal with seven and a half minutes remaining in the third period when right wing Nikita Scherbak fed left wing Nick Zajac who was standing all alone in the slot, beating Cheveldave to record his ninth goal of the season.
Down 2-0, Hart put the Raiders on the board with one minute and forty seconds remaining but the Blades would strike back shortly later with an empty-net goal to secure their first victory over the Raiders this season.
The Raiders are back at home on Saturday, facing the Regina Pats at the Art Hauser Centre.
RAIDER NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Friday were Mackenzie Stewart, Craig Leverton and Tim Vanstone ... Forward Gage Quinney entered Friday's game leading the Raiders with a rating of plus-14, tied for third among all WHL rookies … Forward Carson Perreaux has scored five goals in his last six games and is three points shy of his point total of 24 in 72 games last season ... Friday's matchup against the Blades was the Raiders first since acquiring a trio of players from the provincial rivals prior to the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline. Former Blades forward Collin Valcourt, defencemen Graeme Craig and Ryan Coghlan combine for eight points in 15 games with the Raiders ... Defenceman Dylan Busenius, acquired by the Blades from the Raiders on Dec. 28, wore the 'A' for the Blades on Friday, along with Zajac.