On Saturday night at Mosaic Place, fans had a chance to see just how big that gulf is at the moment, and as it turns out, a team coming off a Western Hockey League championship season with a ton of holdovers is going to have a bit of a leg up on a squad with 11 17-year-olds in the line-up.
The Raiders came out of the gate absolutely blazing, outshooting the Warriors 18-3 at one point in the opening frame as they built a 3-0 lead before extending their edge to 5-0 and cruising to a 5-1 victory.
Making things that much tougher was that everyone from the coaches to the players themselves knew that Prince Albert was going to offer a much greater challenge than the struggling Red Deer Rebels in their 5-2 victory on Friday night.
But coach Tim Hunter pointed to a poor compete level right off the hop as well as a lack of solid play on the puck as being the difference in the contest.
“We did some of that last night and it caught up to us, it showed in the third period,” Hunter said. “We said we couldn’t have that tonight against a better team here in P.A. and we didn’t get the message… It’s unfortunate, we slowly got better as the game went along but it’s too little too late when they’re comfortable playing with a 5-0 lead. So there are lessons to be learned, that there are no margins for error when you’re playing a good team in this league.”
Aliaksei Protas turned in a performance worthy his third-round selection by the Washington Capitals in last summer’s NHL Draft, scoring twice and adding an assist to take over the WHL scoring lead from the Warriors’ Ryder Korczak with 12 goals and 26 points in 16 games.
Korczak scored the lone goal for the Tribe, with his marker coming with 2:48 remaining in the contest.
Brayden Watts, Spencer Moe and Evan Herman also scored for Prince Albert.
Bailey Brkin got the start in goal but was pulled in favour of Adam Evanoff after the Raiders’ fourth goal. Brkin would stop 18 shots, Evanoff turned aside 12 the rest of the way.
The Warriors fired 32 shots on Carter Serhyenko.
Moose Jaw dropped back down to .500 and sit at 7-7-1-0 on the season, good enough for fourth place in the East Division and the second wild-card playoff spot. Prince Albert improved to 11-2-3-0 with the victory and hold down first spot in the East.
The Warriors are back in action Friday when they host the Winnipeg Ice. Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.