Edmonton Oil Kings forward Riley Kieser scores on Prince Albert Raiders backstop Cole Cheveldave during the third period of the Edmonton Oil Kings' WHL hockey playoff game against the Prince Albert Raiders at Rexall Place on Sunday. The Oil Kings won Game 2 3-1 to take a 2-0 series lead. Photo by Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun/QMI
With a tap on the shoulder in Game 1 on Saturday, Prince Albert Raiders backstop Cole Cheveldave was granted a golden opportunity to get his net back.
After relinquishing the starter role to Nick McBride in the final weeks of the regular season, Cheveldave stepped into Game 1 of the Raiders opening playoff series with the Edmonton Oil Kings at Rexall Place as a reliever.
Cheveldave got the call just under 14 minutes into the first period on Saturday after McBride surrendered three goals on nine shots.
Following a 32-save performance in the Raiders 5-3 defeat on Saturday, Cheveldave was handed the reins again for Game 2, a strong sign that he just might be No. 1 between the pipes moving forward.
“I have the ball now and I’m going to roll with it as long as I can,” Cheveldave said following a team meeting on Monday. “Goaltending is all about confidence and having the confidence of my coach and GM is huge for me.”
Prior to the opening round of the WHL playoffs, McBride started eight of the Raiders final 10 regular season games.
After dealing for Cheveldave prior to the 2014 season, giving up prospect Jake Kryski and a first round draft pick, the overage keeper was expected to be the Raiders undisputed starting goaltender.
Starting the season strong, Cheveldave’s role with the team began to slowly decrease following a 2-6 January, where he posted a 3.35 goals-against-average.
Still, Cheveldave said the frustration of losing the No. 1 job to a rookie was with himself, not McBride or the Raiders coaching staff.
“Of course I would have liked to be in net but he (McBride) was running with it,” Cheveldave said of the 17-year-old who won seven of eight games to lift the Raiders into the playoffs. “As soon as an opportunity came for me to get back in, I’m going to take it.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings step into the Art Hauser for Game 3 on Tuesday with a 2-0 series lead, largly in part to strong goaltending of their own from 18-year-old starter Tristan Jarry.
While Cheveldave has been solid, stopping 61 of 65 shots in the best-of-seven series so far, Jarry has been equal to the task, stopping 52 of 56.
In Game 2 on Sunday, Jarry led the Oil Kings to a 3-1 victory as Cheveldave stood on his head to keep his team in it through two periods of scorless hockey.
Cheveldave said facing Jarry in a pair of goaltending duels to open the series with the Oil Kings has elevated his game.
“When the other goalie is playing well, I have to boost my game,” Chevledave said of Game 2. “It was a pretty good battle for most of the game, then he (Jarry) came up clutch at the end.”
Although Cheveldave has done a good job of shutting down the Oil Kings potent scoring trio of forwards Henrik Samuelsson, Curtis Lazar and Mitchell Moroz, he has received very little offensive support.
The Raiders have scored just four goals through the series’ first two games with markers from Josh Morrissey, Brendan Guhle and a pair by Dakota Conroy.
Cheveldave said the key to getting the puck past Jarry, who finished the 2014 regular season as the league’s leader in goals-against-average, wins and shutouts, will be to put shots and traffic to the net.
No matter his role, Cheveldave and his 22 games of WHL playoff experience will help to guide the Raiders young guns through the totally different game of post-season hockey.
“It’s just a completely different season,” Cheveldave said of playoff hockey. “You have to keep an even keel throughout the entire series. You can’t get to up or down because that’s where things start to go astray in your game plan.”
Cheveldave said he is unsure whether or not he will get the start between the pipes on Tuesday.
Prior to Tuesday’s tilt, the Prince Albert Co-op will be hosting a tailgate party in front of the Art Hauser Centre from 4-6 p.m.
As of Monday, tickets are still available for Game 3 and can be purchased at the Raiders box office or online at raiderhockey.com.
The puck drops at 7 p.m.