Photo: Ric Fedyck/Vancouver Giants
Twenty-four hours after the Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Giants combined for 10 goals in regulation, the same squads showed off the defensive side of their play in Game 4 of the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship Series.
Ian Scott, a prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs, stopped all 36 shots for his fifth shutout of the 2019 WHL Playoffs while Brett Leason, a prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft, scored the lone goal in the 1-0 contest. David Tendeck, a prospect of the Arizona Coyotes, stopped 25 of 26 shots in the narrow loss for Vancouver.
The Raiders now lead the best-of-seven championship series 3-1 with a chance to claim their second WHL Championship in team history Friday, May 10 (7:30 p.m. PT) at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C.
Through the first 40 minutes, both Scott and Tendeck stole the show. As both teams looked for the spark early on, the best of both goaltenders was required. Redirections, passes through the crease, and shots from all manner of angles were presented to both goalkeepers, but they held their ground. Scott finished the first period with 15 saves while Tendeck stopped all nine shots from the Raiders.
“Give Vancouver credit; they came out hard at the start,” Marc Habscheid, head coach of the Raiders, said. “I thought we weathered it. We didn’t take a step back. We wanted to make sure we were assertive in our game.”
Both goaltenders remained strong in the second period, with Tendeck stopping 12 shots from Prince Albert while Scott collected 10 more stops to swell his save total to 25 through 40 minutes.
The lack of scoring wasn’t due to a lack of chances for either side. A breakaway for Sergei Sapego was easily handled by Tendeck. At the other end, Brayden Watts cut across the slot and had an open net to deposit the game’s first goal, only for the Raider defence to tie up his stick at the last second.
“We played well enough to win,” Michael Dyck, head coach of the Giants, said. “It just came down to some bounces and they capitalized on the chance they had. We had numerous chances, just the puck didn’t bounce the right way for us tonight.”
Leason would become the only skater to score 4:21 into the final period of regulation. As the Giants attempted to bring the puck out front into the top of Scott’s crease, the Raiders knocked it ahead in an attempt to clear it out of their zone. Aliaksei Protas, a prospect eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, advanced the puck to Leason. Using his speed to create sufficient room, Leason broke in on Tendeck and shot the puck blocker side, finding a way through to the back of the net.
“I was just skating as fast as I could, trying to get down there,” Leason said. “[The] goalie came out pretty far and I figured he’d open up his blocker and that’s where I put it.”
The goal didn’t deter the Giants, who kept up the pressure on Scott. However, the Calgary, Alta. product was at his best once again Wednesday, stopping all 11 shots in the third period. Regardless of the traffic placed in front of the 6-foot-3, 183-pound goaltender, Scott managed to either knock down the puck or envelop it completely with his glove.
A robbery of Alex Kannok Leipert, a prospect of the Washington Capitals who found himself alone in the slot past the midway point of the third, was among his best of the night.
“I just tried to get something in front of it,” Scott said. “He was wide open, so anything I can [get in front of it].”
Now up 3-1 in the series, the Raiders are on the cusp of claiming their second WHL Championship in team history. Not ready to declare themselves the winner yet, Habscheid remained humble about his team’s positioning.
“I’ve learned, because I’m as old as dirt, is that you don’t give games away,” Habscheid said. “Not at this level and not with this at stake.
“The great thing is when you’re that close, guys can smell it so motivation is not a factor.”
Leason’s goal gave him 23 points in the 2019 WHL Playoffs, tied with Giants’ defenceman Bowen Byram for the lead. The goal also extended his point streak to seven games, matching Spokane Chiefs forward Riley Woods for the longest in the league during the 2019 WHL Playoffs.
Scott’s shutout put him in some impressive company as well. The five shutouts by the Raider goaltender has tied him with Mac Carruth (2013 Portland Winterhawks) and Laurent Brossoit (2013 Edmonton Oil Kings) for the second-most all-time in a single WHL Playoffs. The current record stands at six, shared by Stuart Skinner (2018 Swift Current Broncos) and Dustin Slade (2006 Vancouver Giants).