The Swift Current Kabos Raiders’ season came to an end at the hands of the Prairie Storm in game three of the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League South Division semi-final series Sunday.
The Raiders came out flying in the first period and led 2-0 but were outscored 4-1 the rest of the way in a 4-3 loss. The Storm’s Ryan Roberts broke a 3-3 tie with 5:30 left in the third period and the Raiders could not answer back. Raiders goaltender Joshua Sundquist made three highlight reel saves in the final five minutes but the Raiders were unable to tie the game.
“Granrude played his best six minutes of goal for us in the last six minutes to even give us a chance at all,” said coach Raiders coach Kent Woods. “He was unreal in the last six minutes. That is how he can play and that is how he is going to play going forward.”
Dylan Rossiter, Kole Lind and Tristan Carey all scored in the loss with assists from Tanner Nagel, Rossiter, and Tanner Fritzke.
The Raiders got out to an incredible start when Rossiter scored from the point just 30 seconds in and Lind scored on the powerplay at the 3:10 mark of the first period.
The talented Prairie Storm took over in the second period when Damien Bentz scored once and league leading scorer Jared Legien counted twice in under 10 minutes.
Carey tied the game 3-3 when he backhanded in a rebound opportunity with 5:21 left in the middle stanza.
The turning point came in the third period when the Raiders failed to scored on a full two-minute five-on-three man-advantage and really failed to even generate a single quality opportunity to lose the momentum.
“You don’t score on the powerplay in the third period is probably the difference,” said Woods. “To kill off a five-on-three, and we never really even generated a great scoring chance off that five-on-three and that was the difference. We had every opportunity in the third period to blow the game out.”
The game featured some drastic momentum swings with each team dominating the play for extended periods of play.
“We gave up a two nothing lead and just up and downs and momentum swings, but a good hockey game.”
Woods agreed that the failure to capitalize on numerous powerplay opportunities turned the momentum completely around.
“Definitely, it was just one of those things, you could just see it. Balgonie are just so opportunistic. Jared Legien for example, he just get pucks and he goes and he is going to make it [happen].”
The Raiders had lost game one at home before winning in overtime on the road in overtime Friday to force game three. They came out firing at home and led 2-0 early and looked poised for a dominating performance.
“Yeah definitely. Then they turned it around. We took a penalty there back-to-back so you end up six minutes short for the last eight minutes after you have probably controlled it. Then they come back and take the momentum back and that was probably the difference in the first and why we are probably not up three or four nothing at the end of the first,” said Woods.
“The second period the same thing, we just never found a groove and it took us a long time until the start of the third more or less. The second period I thought was all Balgonie for sure,” he added.
Woods gave full credit to a talented opponent, who will now face the top seeded Regina Pat Blues in the South Division final series.
“They were tenacious though right. We had chances and we maybe had lots of shots but they were tenacious. They were hard on pucks. They battled in areas and you have to give them all the credit no matter if we outshot them, they probably out-chanced us, just because they had the extra desire and that extra instinct when you need to. Our guys played well, don’t get me wrong. It was just that they had an extra level that you need to move forward and that was probably the difference in a one-goal game.”
He hoped the team can learn from the devastating loss.
“Some of the best learning moments you have are losses and this is the worst thing about it. But going forward they are all going to realize what they have to do to get better and improve. It says a lot for our team, constantly this bantam team has been in the league finals, or south finals, or whatever it is, and battled and been near the top of the league and you have to give our minor hockey system credit right now.”
The Raiders avoided elimination Friday with a 3-2 overtime win over the host Prairie Storm. Carey scored his second goal of the game to even up the series. The Raiders had dropped game one 4-1 on home ice.
Carey scored 9:05 into overtime during his three-point outing to send the series back to Swift Current. He assisted on Rossiter’s first-period goal and scored 3:37 into the third period to put the Raiders ahead 2-1, their second lead of the game. Jesse Kortyko scored for the host Prairie Storm with 7:32 left in regulation to force overtime. Bentz also scored for the hosts in the first period to tie the game 1-1.
Nagel and Lind both picked up assists and Granrude earned the win in goal for the Raiders.
After a slow start to the season, the Raiders placed second in the South Division with a 15-7-5 record.
“Definitely a rough start,” reflected Woods. “You lose a guy like Lind who breaks his wrist and it is something you are not gonna like. The guys kind of I thought responded okay at times and we lost a bunch of one-goal hockey games early on. Overall, we only lost seven games in the league. We were probably in the top-four all year. We beat West Central, we beat the North East, we beat the Pat Blues at home here, so we played with the best. Our trouble was that we were a little inconsistent and we didn’t beat the bottom end teams as much as we had to.”
Though the majority of his team will move on next season, Woods thinks that the Raiders will be in the mix again next season.
“You have a young guy like Caleb Stevenson and Tyde Hutchinson coming back. There’s lots of good guys coming out… There’s lots of talent, it’s just what they can do. They are going to be for sure mid-pack, there’s no reason why not, and they will keep moving forward. What else can you do?”
Sunday’s loss appeared to be the last game behind the Raiders’ bench for Woods.
“I think now I have a young guy that is five that is starting initiation this year. It is pretty tough for me not to be there with him. So right now I am taking some time to think about it. I was hoping that this would be the last year that we would take’r all and I could retire on a happy note but I think right now it is probably enough for me.”
Woods has been a fixture behind the bench with the Raiders and Midget AAA Legionnaires.
“It has been good. I have learnt lots, I have seen great players,” said Woods, who said he got a call just this weekend from Prince Albert Raiders forward Tim Vanstone, a former player, asking for advice. He also has former players Zac Mackay and Justin Spagrud skating for the hometown Broncos these days. “You see all these guys move forward and it is something to be proud of and those kids got to be proud of themselves. We have a great Bantam program and hopefully it continues on and the Legionnaires I think are on the right step moving forward as much as their struggles are. I just see our minor hockey getting stronger.”