Picture: Lucas Chudleigh
For anyone who doubted the Prince Albert Raiders after Game 1 of the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship Series, those fears were put to bed in Game 2.
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott stopped all 15 shots sent his way for his league-leading fourth shutout of the 2019 WHL Playoffs while Dante Hannoun picked up the game-winning goal as part of a three-point night in a 4-0 win against the Vancouver Giants. The best-of-seven championship series is now tied at one game apiece.
The Raiders offensive flair and stingy defensive play that had made them successful to date returned when they opened the scoring in first and held the Giants to few opportunities throughout the game.
“For most of the game last night we were okay,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “Tonight, we were that plus. Our execution, our physicality, there wasn’t much that was missing tonight.”
To get there though took time and effort as Giants goaltender David Tendeck, a prospect of the Arizona Coyotes, earned a quick deflection out of play to subside the energy from building early on.
Moments later, Jakob Brook – Eastern Conference Scholastic Player of the Year – used his on-ice smarts to get the first good chance of the game at the side of the net. As Tendeck left his net to play the puck at one side, Brook received the puck at the other side and was primed to score until a Giants defender prevented the opportunity at the last moment. After that, WHL Rookie of the Month for April Aliaksei Protas gave it his best shot at getting the home side on the board, beating Tendeck but not the post with 11:48 to go in the opening period.
Undeterred, the Raiders would break through eventually. Forward Parker Kelly, a prospect of the Ottawa Senators, began the scoring play by bringing the puck out from the corner. As he battled his way to the net, he drew a penalty after a Giants player hooked him, causing the puck to slide through the crease where Hannoun was in the perfect spot to place the puck into the open part of the net on the delayed penalty. The goal extended his point streak to three games.
“Confidence is huge,” Hannoun said. “You’ve just got to battle through each game and just keep working hard.”
Prince Albert took further control of the game in the second period. While it wasn’t the most well-executed series of plays, a collection of back-and-forth play in Vancouver’s end eventually put the puck on the stick of Hannoun. He then fed it down low to Kelly, who dished it opposite side to Sergei Sapego. The product of Vitebsk, Belarus paused to control the puck before sniping it past Tendeck from the slot to double his team’s lead.
As the Raiders increased their lead to three, Noah Gregor got in on the scoring fun. The Raiders used the power play to their advantage as a point shot by Max Martin was denied, only to be collected by the crafty Hannoun. With the San Jose Sharks prospect Gregor set up for the one-time goal to Hannoun’s right, Gregor took the soft pass and buried it into the back of the net.
Where the Raiders succeeded on the power play, the Giants couldn’t break through like they did in Game 1. Going on the man advantage late in the first and early in the third, Giants were repelled by the Raiders on this particular night. Giants head coach Michael Dyck acknowledged it would take a more consistent effort to beat the Raiders three more times in the series.
“I think we can take things from both games,” Dyck said. “There’s things we did really well in the first game and things that we didn’t do so well in the second. Today there was some spurts that we liked but just not enough.”
What shots did make it through Prince Albert’s defence were easily handled by Scott. The WHL Goaltender of the Year stopped six shots in the first, four in the second, and five in the third. His biggest save of the game came in the third period as a momentary lapse in defence by the Raiders caused Milos Roman to step into a one-time shot in the slot completely unopposed. A chance similar to a goal he had allowed in Game 1 was instead swallowed up into the pads of the Calgary, Alta. product.
The goaltender deflected any praise like he had turned aside shots in the game, turning the credit towards his defence for snuffing out chances and clearing lanes.
“The guys didn’t lose faith in me,” Scott said. “The sun came up this morning. Playoffs are going to be a roller coaster and you’ve just got to find that even level.”
Brett Leason, ranked 25th among North American skaters in advance of the 2019 NHL Draft, capped off the game with an empty-net goal with 1:21 left in regulation. The goal extended his point streak to five games. Kelly picked up a pair of assists for a second-straight game to highlight another strong individual performance for the Raiders.