Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart takes the opening faceoff on Saturday against Prince Albert Raiders counterpart Leon Draisaitl, a fitting start to a matchup pitting two of the league's hottest prospects against eachother. Draisaitl netted the game-winning goal to lift the Raiders to a 4-2 win over the Ice on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Some of the league's top talent was on display as the Prince Albert Raiders took a step towards a playoff berth with a 4-2 triumph over the Kootenay Ice on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
With just seven games to go in their regular season schedule, the Raiders gained valuable ground in their hunt for a playoff berth, as two of the WHL's hottest prospects in Leon Draisaitl and Sam Reinhart squared off.
While Reinhart was held off the score sheet on Saturday, Draisaitl netted the game-winning goal as the Raiders snapped a three-game losing skid.
Though admitting his squad was a tad sluggish returning home from a six-game road trip, Raiders coach Cory Clouston said his team played a disciplined game, backed by a 25-save performance by rookie backstop Nick McBride.
"I thought we had our game underneath us and McBride made a couple key saves," Clouston said. "We had some good chances to extend the lead, we didn't, but I thought we did a good job of not getting frustrated and just stuck with the game plan."
Striking first six minutes into the opening period, Ice centre Zach McPhee tallied his sixth of the season to give his team an early 1-0 lead.
McPhee's opening goal would serve as the period's lone marker as Ice backstop Mackenzie Skapski stood his ground as the Ice outshot the Raiders 8-6 in the frame.
Adding to the lead early in the second period, Ice left wing Levi Cable danced in all alone, sniping the puck over the shoulder of McBride, making his 20th appearance between the pipes this season.
With less than four minutes to go in the middle frame, the Raiders got on the board as centre Dakota Conroy ripped his 27th of the season past Skapski to cut the Ice's lead down to one. About three minutes later, centre Chance Braid fed the puck from behind the net to forward Carson Perreaux, who tied things up at twos going into the third period.
Posting a goal and an assist on Saturday, Clouston agreed that Draisaitl's explosive offensive production in February, has come at just the right time as the Raiders come down the stretch and make a run at a playoff spot.
"He's obviously created some chemistry with his line," Clouston said of Draisaitl, Conroy and left wing Collin Valcourt. "We've had other lines contributing as well which sometimes take some of the pressure off him (Draisaitl) and that line which allows him to play a little bit more freely."
After notching an assist on Conroy's opening goal, Draisaitl continued to outshine Reinhart, beating Skapski with his 30th of the season to give the Raiders their first lead of the game early in the third period.
Outshooting the Ice 27-25, the Raiders added an insurance goal with three minutes to go, as centre Reid Gardiner found himself back in the goal column for the first time since Jan. 18.
McBride was solid stopping nine shots in the third period as he and the Raiders held on for the win.
As the Red Deer Rebels were dormant on Saturday, the Raiders win put them in a stalemate for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot with both teams locked up with 65 points.
With increased production by Perreaux and centre Shane Danyluk over the past few games, Clouston said contributions from the team's bottom six players needs to continue if the Raiders are to make the playoffs.
"For us to have success we need balanced scoring," Clouston said. "Our third line of Danyluk, Braid and Perreaux is starting to score, we need all lines contributing."
The Raiders will look to keep things going as they host the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre.
RAIDERS NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Saturday were Ryan Coghlan, Tim Vanstone and Darcy Zaharichuk ... Going into Saturday's game, the Raiders possessed the league's second best power play unit, scoring with a 24.7% efficiency ... Raiders forward Shane Danyluk has scored four goals in his last five games and is one marker shy of his total of eight last season ... Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl has found himself on the score sheet in 45 of 56 games so far this season, sitting seventh overall in league scoring ... In the Raiders first tilt with the Ice this season on Oct. 13, not a single penalty was called as the Ice triumphed 2-0 at Western Financial Place ... The penalty box stays relatively empty when the Raiders and Ice meet, with both teams combining for just 36 penalty minutes in four meetings this season.
Slideshow from the game
Sidebar on top prospects
Slideshow on top prospects