Prince Albert Raiders forward Calder Brooks slides the puck under Brandon Wheat King goaltender Jordan Papirny’s arm to put his team up 2-1 late in the thrid period at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert on Saturday evening. Wheat King defenders Eric Roy (left) and Rene Hunter along with Raiders forward Reid Gardiner can also be seen. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
With serious playoff implications at hand, the Prince Albert Raiders wrapped up their season series with the Brandon Wheat Kings with a 3-2 victory on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
A late third period marker by Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl stood as the game-winner as the Raiders secured their fourth-straight win, establishing a grip on the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
Holding the Wheat Kings to 24 shots on Saturday, Raiders coach Cory Clouston was pleased with his team's defensive effort.
"We did a very good job of keeping things to the perimeter," Clouston said. "I thought we did a good job of clogging it up, they are a very fast team and we did a very good job of defending their speed at their blue line."
Appearing in his fourth straight start, Raiders rookie backstop Nick McBride looked sharp in the early going until an unlucky bounce put the Wheat Kings on the board.
Eight minutes into the first period, rookie left wing Rihards Bukarts ripped the puck over the Raiders net. The puck then bounced off the glass and hit McBride's back, dropping into the net to give the Wheat Kings a 1-0 lead.
Though the Raiders applied plenty of pressure, dinging one off the post and pouring 16 shots on Wheat Kings backstop Jordan Papirny, they were held scoreless heading into the second frame.
As the Raiders continue to look to the 17-year-old keeper to lead the team into the playoffs, Clouston said McBride, yet again, showed his ability to maintain composure, bouncing back from the first period fluke.
"He (McBride) showed mental toughness, that's a tough goal to give up early in the game," Clouston said. "He did a good job of just taking a big breath and our guys did good job giving him a chance to get his game back underneath him."
While McBride regained his composure, the Raiders finally broke through with forward Dakota Conroy's 28th of the season to knot things up at ones 11 minutes into the middle period.
With 28 shots after two periods, the Raiders ran into the outstanding play of Papirny who made save after save to keep things tied up going into the third frame.
Papirny continued to close the door in the third period, robbing Conroy of his second of the night with a spectacular glove save.
Denying the Raiders on numerous strong scoring chances, Raiders left wing Calder Brooks said getting past Papirny on Saturday was no easy task.
"He had a very solid game," Brooks said of Papirny. "We would have liked to capitalized on some of those early scoring chances in the first period, a couple of bounces could have made the game a little less (nerve wracking) for us."
On the other end of the ice, McBride stood his ground as the Raiders solid defensive effort limited the Wheat Kings production.
With just over four minutes to go in the period, Brooks jumped on a loose puck and deeked out Papirny to give the Raiders their first lead of the game. Seconds later, the Raiders struck again with Draisaitl's game-winning marker, which extended his point streak to four games.
Though Bukarts snuck his second of the game past McBride in the game's dying seconds, the Raiders pair of late third period goals scored in a span of 13 seconds were enough to clinch victory.
As the Raiders playoff hunt continues, Brooks said worrying about the performance of other teams in the standings, is pointless.
"All you can do is worry about what you can control and that's winning," Brooks said.
The Raiders will have two days off before they embark on a brief road trip, facing the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday and the Regina Pats on Wednesday at the Brandt Centre.
RAIDERS NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Saturday were Ryan Coghlan, Darcy Zaharichuk and Tim Vanstone ... Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl has exploded offensively in the last two months, scoring 37 points since Feb. 4 including 12 multi-point games in that span. Draisaitl is just three points shy of the 100 mark. The last Raider to do so was Steve Kelly in the 1995-1996 season ... After posting just a single point in February, Raiders centre Reid Gardiner has regained his offensive prowess, riding a four-game point streak ... The Raiders are on pace to finish the regular season with the lowest penalty total in franchise history. They entered Saturday's game with a league-low total of 796.
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