Moose Jaw Warriors goaltender Justin Paulic waits to make one of his 39 saves as Moose Jaw defenceman Alexey Sleptsov and Prince Albert Raiders forward Chance Braid jostle for position during second period action at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday evening. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
The shots were plentiful but their quality was questionable as the Prince Albert Raiders fell to the Moose Jaw Warriors 7-1 on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Outshooting the Warriors 40-29, the Raiders record against the East Division rivals this season fell to 1-5-0 as they continue to chase the Red Deer Rebels for the Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
Although the Raiders outshot their opponent by a wide margin with little to show for it, Raiders coach Cory Clouston disagreed with the notion that Friday's game was a matter of quantity over quality in terms of the Raiders chances.
"We had good chances and good opportunities but the game was lost when we went down 3-0," Clouston said. "Frustration set in, we didn't score on our early chances and they did."
Two minutes into the game the Raiders were afforded a power play opportunity and came on strong in the first half of the opening period as the Warriors struggled to clear their own zone in the early going.
The Raiders piled seven shots on backstop Justin Paulic before the Warriors finally registered their first puck on net just over seven minutes into the frame. Their second shot would put them in the lead however, as the Warriors capitalized on the power play when defenceman Alexey Sleptsov tallied the game's opening goal, beating Raiders goalie Cole Cheveldave with a wrist shot from the point.
"We need to be better positioned," Clouston said of Sleptsov's goal which was the result of an awkward bounce off the stick of Raiders forward Carson Perreaux. "We're a team, I'm not going to blame goaltending, we need to be better."
Tightening up in the second half of the first period, the Warrior defence appeared impenetrable, as the Raiders poured the shots on net however struggled to generate quality scoring chances, carrying the 1-0 deficit into the second frame.
While the Raiders continued to outshoot them in the second period the Warriors were the clear winners in terms of shot quality.
On just their sixth shot of the game, the Warriors struck again less than a minute into the second period when on a Raiders turnover in their own zone, left wing Torrin White ripped a shot through the legs of Cheveldave to extend their lead to 2-0
Cheveldave's night ended early when a third unanswered goal off the stick of Warriors centre Brayden Point prompted a goaltender change as Nick McBride took over between the pipes.
McBride was in net for a minute and seven seconds before right wing Jack Rodewald left the Raiders defence clueless as he deked through, toe dragging the puck to beat the rookie keeper with the Warriors fourth unanswered goal.
With the shots pouring in, Friday's tilt marked a familiar trend throughout the course of the Raiders recent struggles; outshooting, but not scoring.
"I thought our chances were fine, I don't know how you can change the strategy to score a goal," Clouston said when asked if at this point, a shakeup of the team's systems was necessary to increase the quality of shots on net. "We are getting the chances we just didn't score early and they did and it just killed our momentum. We made mistakes because we had to open things up and they capitalized."
The Raiders finally got on the board when with seven seconds to go in the second period, Paulic gave up a rebound in front of his net which defenceman Josh Morrissey buried to trim the Warriors lead down to three going into the third period.
While both teams struggled to generate offence early in the third frame, things opened up when the Raiders were given their fourth power play opportunity.
It was the Warriors however that would best utilize the extra space on the ice, as Point, like Rodewald did in the second period, dangled through the Raiders defence, beating McBride shorthanded with his second goal of the night.
About two minutes later, left wing Tanner Eberle added to the lead, giving the Raiders a five-goal mountain to climb with 12 and a half minutes to go.
The Raiders did very little to chip away at the nearly insurmountable lead and midway through the third period, Point put the game out of reach, completing the hat trick as the Warriors cruised to the win, snapping a nine-game losing skid.
The Raiders will have little time to regroup and they are right back at it on Saturday, taking on the Medicine Hat Tigers at the Art Hauser Centre.
RAIDER NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Friday were Jayden Hart, Ryan Coghlan and Darcy Zaharichuk ... Dressed for the Warriors on Friday was Prince Albert native right wing Miles Warkentine. Warkentine has tallied seven points in 45 games in his second WHL season with the Warriors. Warkentine joins left wing Ben Duperreault of Wilcox, right wing Josh Uhrich of Rosetown and defenceman Jesse Forsberg of Waldheim as the only Saskatchewan natives on the Warriors roster ... Not in the lineup for the Warriors on Friday was captain Sam Fioretti who served the final game of a three-game suspension stemming from a Jan. 25 incident against the Kootenay Ice ... Morrissey has taken over as the league's No. 1 goal scoring defenceman. With 18 goals this season, Morrissey is tied for fourth in Raiders franchise history for goals scored in a single season by a d-man, tied with Dean Kolstad and Nick Schultz ... Prior to Friday's game, each player on the Raiders roster presented his billet mom with a rose, honouring their hospitality.