They came, they saw, they conquered.
The Prince Albert Raiders rolled into Cranbrook Tuesday night, shutting out the Kootenay Ice 5-0 in front of 1,930 fans at Western Financial Place.
“We’re a little bit non-competitive and when you’re non-competitive and you’re asked to do some things to get inside some areas that may cause some physicality in the game, it’s a tough choice to make,” said head coach Ryan McGill after the loss. “This game is a very competitive game. It’s a very competitive league with good coaches and good players. The only way you’re going to get ahead and score and win games is if you get into the hard areas and play with second and third effort. Right now, we’re a first-effort hockey team and it’s obviously showing.”
The Ice have lost six consecutive games. In their last 11 outings, they’ve only managed to come out victorious once.
Tim Vanstone’s first-period goal with 90 seconds remaining on the clock was the only tally the Raiders needed. Everything from there on was insurance as the Ice, the WHL’s lowest-scoring team, were unable to muster much of anything in the offensive end of the rink.
Forward Luke Philp had what was arguably the best scoring opportunity for the hosts, and it came in the second period with the Raiders holding a 1-0 edge.
“[The game] completely changes, we get all the momentum going forward [if I score],” Philp said after the game. “That’s one I’ve really got to have. I’m pretty frustrated with myself for missing that.”
On top of the Prince Albert crease, the puck came to Philp. With Raiders goaltender Nick McBride out of position, the 19-year-old Philp had nothing but gaping net to shoot at. Having scored 31 goals last season, that isn’t the type of opportunity the 5-foot-10 Canmore native misses on. But somehow he sent the puck wide of the net on this night.
“We need other guys to score. We can’t put everything on Luke Philp’s shoulders,” McGill said. “We can’t put everything on Jaedon Descheneau’s shoulders. I know we have because they’ve produced. But there’s 16 other players on the ice that need to produce as well.”
Shortly after Philp’s chance, Craig Leverton extended the Raiders lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal on a two-man advantage while Tanner Faith and Ryan Chynoweth sat in the penalty box.
Jayden Hart made it 3-0 Prince Albert midway through the third period. With nothing to lose, McGill yanked goaltender Wyatt Hoflin with 3:52 to play in regulation.
Winnipeg Jets first-round pick Josh Morrissey took advantage of the vacant cage, burying an empty-net goal a mere 34 seconds later. The Calgary native was named first start on the night with a one-goal, three-point performance.
After being sent back to his crease, Hoflin was left helpless to deal with an odd-man rush that Dylan Stewart cashed in on to make it 5-0. The 19-year-old Kootenay goaltender faced 45 shots by the time Tuesday night was over.
Raiders goaltender Nick McBride made 29 saves to earn the victory, marking the first shutout of the 17-year-old’s WHL career.
Centreman Jordan Tkatch was the only other Raider to register a multi-point night, grabbing helpers on the third-period goals from Hart and Morrissey.
The Prince Albert Raiders continue down the road where they face the Lethbridge Hurricanes (4-9-0-1) Wednesday night.
As for the Ice, they face the Red Deer Rebels (6-7-1-0) Friday night at Western Financial Place.
“We’ve got to find a way to be a second- and third-effort hockey team,” McGill said looking forward to Friday. “We have to find a way to put some character on the ice.”
Notes: F Tim Bozon missed Tuesday’s game due to a lower-body injury. He is listed as day to day…F Jon Martin missed his sixth contest due to an upper-body injury and is out for another week…D Tyler King missed his first game with a lower-body injury and is slated to miss two to three weeks…