Swift Current Broncos goaltender Eetu Laurikainen watches as Prince Albert Raiders forward Dakota Conroy attempts to pounce on a rebound during second period action at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday evening. The Swift Current defenders in the background are (left to right) Colby Cave, Stephen Shmoorkoff and Dillon Heatherington. The Broncos won 7-0 with Laurikainen making 35 saves. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Playing their third game in as many nights, the Prince Albert Raiders losing streak extended to four games, all at the hands of East Division opponents, falling to the Swift Current Broncos 7-0 on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Broncos starting goalie Eetu Laurikainen secured his third shutout of the season, stopping all 35 shots faced, snapping the Broncos three-game losing skid.
With the loss, the Raiders record fell to 22-22-2, reaching the .500 level for the first time of the season as they find themselves out of playoff position.
Raiders coach Cory Clouston was nothing short of morose in summarizing Sunday's tilt.
"They scored three goals on their first 12 shots, two of them for sure should not be goals," Clouston said. "When you are fragile as it is, it's very tough to play catch-up hockey all the time."
The Broncos opened scoring on a goaltending blunder when Raiders backstop Nick McBride made a save and rather than cover up for a faceoff, played the puck and handed it directly to right wing Coda Gordon who tallied his 17th of the season.
"Nick (McBride) obviously had some nerves and it showed," Clouston said of the rookie goaltender who prior to Sunday's game hadn't appeared in net for the Raiders since Dec. 13. "In reverse their goaltender made it look simple, he made it look routine."
The Broncos were outshooting the Raiders until late in the first period Raiders defenceman Josh Morrissey delivered a big hit on defenceman Julius Honka. Immediately following Morrissey's hit, the Raiders took the puck the other way, challenging Laurikainen with a series of shots on the ensuing attack.
Morrissey's bone-crushing hit shifted momentum in the Raiders favour for only a short time and not long after, Raiders defenceman Ryan Coghlan turned the puck over behind his own net to Broncos centre Graham Black who chipped the puck to right wing Jay Merkley in the slot for an easy goal, putting the Broncos ahead 2-0 going into the second period.
Raiders goalie Cole Cheveldave made his 12th consecutive appearance in net when a third unanswered Broncos goal from centre Zac Mackay prompted a goalie change.
Cheveldave's time in net wasn't any easier, surrendering both Gordon and Merkley's second goal of the night and a late tally by left wing Jake DeBrusk to give the Raiders a 6-0 mountain to climb going into the second period.
Clouston said a lead of such magnitude is nearly insurmountable when you are up against a hockey club as strong as the Broncos.
"It's very tough to play catch-up hockey against a big club and spotting teams two or three goals," he said. "We need to get goaltending and if we can get that it will give us confidence, it's tough."
McBride would find himself back between the pipes to start the third period and got little offensive support from his team who tallied just seven shots in the frame, as a solid Laurikainen cruised to his fourth win against the Raiders this season.
With the victory, the Broncos improved their record to 23-18-6, tying the division-leading Brandon Wheat Kings with 54 points.
The Raiders will be back in action on Wednesday when they take on the Red Deer Rebels at the Art Hauser Centre before facing the Broncos on the road on Friday at the Credit Union iPlex.
RAIDER NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Saturday were Brendan Guhle, Darcy Zaharichuk and Matteo Gennaro ... Forward Gage Quinney entered Friday's game leading the Raiders with a rating of plus-14 while newly acquired defenceman Graeme Craig posts a team low minus-15 … Forward Carson Perreaux has scored five goals in his last nine games and is three points shy of his point total of 24 in 72 games last season ... The Raiders post a record of 12-9-1 this season against Saskatchewan-based teams. They have lost to both the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats just once in six meetings ... Going into Sunday's game, the Raiders have scored just three goals on 124 shots in their last two games ... The Raiders post a league low 536 penalty minutes going into Sunday's game ... The Raiders post a record of 15-1-0 when leading after two periods and are 16-6-0 when they strike first on the scoreboard ... Prior to the opening faceoff on Sunday, the Raiders honoured Derryl "Blackie" Tilsey . Tilsey was the Raiders bus driver for more than 20 years.