After a brief absence from the winners’ circle, the Prince Albert Raiders jumped back in with a decisive 5-2 victory Friday night over the Brandon Wheat Kings at Westoba Place.
Although the Raiders’ winning streak was stopped at 19 games by the Swift Current Broncos with a 3-2 shootout loss on Tuesday, the Raiders are still undefeated in regulation through their last 21 games (20-0-0-1). They’ve only lost once in regulation all year and are 27-1-0-1 so far this year.
“We talked about it yesterday and today, there’s no need to panic,” Raiders assistant coach Jeff Truitt said. “We were playing well, we put up 54 [shots] in Swift Current but that’s gone. Coming in here, we had to hit the reset button and play with speed and making good plays and be structured in all three zones. I thought that we did that tonight.”
Raiders forward Brett Leason has made headlines all season and did it again on Friday night. He is now officially on the hottest roll in the Western Hockey League’s modern era.
By adding an assist on Friday, Leason extended his scoring streak to 29 games. Nobody in the WHL internet era (since the 1996-97 season) has accomplished that feat. Leason’s streak is also the longest in that span to open up a season.
But in terms of overall records, Leason still has a long road ahead of him. Jeff Nelson scored in 56 straight games for the Raiders from his playing time in 1988-92.
Sean Montgomery shot Leason’s pass into the back of the net. That gave Montgomery a career-high in points with 30 in 29 games. Montgomery now has 12 goals on the year, one away from tying his career best. He’s also just three faceoff victories away from his personal best in that department.
The Raiders haven’t dropped any points when Donovan Buskey takes his place in goal. Although he’s only seen action in five games so far this season, he’s won all five, four in regulation and one in overtime.
Buskey stopped 24 of 26 shots against the Wheat Kings, after a 22 of 23 performance in his last start on Nov. 24 in a 5-1 win over the Kootenay ICE.
“Busk has been such a great teammate, works hard in practice and whatnot. Doesn’t shock me when he gets in the net and looks pretty calm,” Truitt said. “His rebound control was good, his angles were good, he played the puck when he had to, at times, real well. I thought it was a real good effort by him.”
Noah Gregor had a goal in Friday night’s game, the 99th goal of his career. The next one will be the century milestone.
Pearce looks back
On their way from Swift Current to Brandon, the Raiders stopped in Montmartre Thursday, the home of the late Adam Herold.
Herold was a Raiders prospect, ready to play his first full season with the Raiders this year. But Herold was one of the 16 people that lost their lives in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6.
Raiders forward Eric Pearce knew Herold more than most of the Raiders. He played hockey with him, even before both were affiliated with the Green and Gold. The two played together with the Regina Pat Canadians in the 2016-17 season before Pearce joined the Raiders.
The two developed a bond in that time. Since the accident, Pearce dedicates each game to Herold and “plays for him.” It was a big moment to return to Herold’s hometown.
“It meant everything to go back there,” Pearce said before Friday’s game. “I think that was the second time I’ve been there. We went there for the memorial right after the accident. Just going to the school and seeing all the community members that loved him—who didn’t love him? It was good to see them and good to see his family. I haven’t seen them much since it happened, maybe a couple times. But it was good to go back there.”
Pearce scored the opening goal of the game just three-and-a-half minutes into the game to get the ball rolling for the Raiders.
1-0, Raiders, Eric Pearce from Carson Miller and Max Martin, 3:35
2-0, Raiders, Sean Montgomery from Brett Leason and Brayden Pachal, 1:27
3-0, Raiders, Cole Fonstad from Kaiden Guhle and Parker Kelly (power play), 11:58
4-0, Raiders, Noah Gregor from Ozzy Wiesblatt and Zack Hayes, 18:19
5-0, Raiders, Ozzy Wiesblatt from Noah Gregor and Cole Fonstad, 18:44
5-1, Wheat Kings, Connor Gutenberg from Baron Thompson and Linden McCorrister, 19:47
5-2, Wheat Kings, Ben McCartney from Linden McCorrister (shorthanded), 18:14
The Raiders and Wheat Kings will both head over to the Art Hauser Centre for a rematch on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Then, the Raiders will run down to Saskatoon to face the Blades for a 4 p.m. matchup on Sunday.
On Twitter: @jeff_paNOW