For the second game in a row, an unlikely hero emerged for the Prince Albert Raiders. It was the same hero as the last game as Aliaksei Protas stepped up with his second hat trick in as many nights. His three goals came in the first 40 minutes and helped steer the Raiders to a 4-2 victory and a trip to the WHL Finals. They will host the Vancouver Giants in the last stage to hoist the Ed Chenyoweth Cup.
“[Protas] is a first-year guy on top of that,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid told PANow.com “He’s a good kid. Obviously he’s helped our team a lot and most of all, he’s a real good teammate.
“He’s a smart guy and he has a good shot and gets to spots well. But I’ve been playing long enough and coaching long enough to know when you get on a roll, you’re on a roll—and he’s on a roll. If we could start the series tomorrow against Vancouver, he might get another three—who knows? He’s feeling it and hopefully he continues to.”
Early in this game, it was the Oil Kings getting themselves into a good position by opening the scoring. Matthew Robertson‘s shot from the point was redirected in front by Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Trey Fix-Wolansky. The puck would deflect behind Ian Scott and lit the lamp.
The lead was short lived though as the Raiders scored on a power play a little over two minutes later. Protas was set up by Sergei Sapego and his shot got behind Dylan Myskiw. For the fourth time in two nights, Protas took a shot from the left side of Myskiw and was able to score.
39 seconds later, Protas’ second goal of the night gave the Raiders the lead. And it was for good. His 10th goal of the playoffs cemented in everyone’s mind how dangerous he is in multiple offensive situations, stealing the puck from an errant Josh Williams pass.
With just over two minutes to play in the first period, the Raiders added a second power-play goal. This time it was Noah Gregor on the receiving end of some great pressure in the offensive zone. The goal was Gregor’s seventh of the playoffs and league-leading fourth game-winner.
The first period ended with the Raiders holding a somewhat comfortable 3-1 lead.
Continuing to send players to the penalty box generally doesn’t end well, especially when you have already given up two power play goals. On their fourth penalty kill, the Edmonton Oil Kings found a way to close the gap to a single goal.
Fix-Wolansky scooped up a pass from Quinn Benjafield and was in alone on Scott. His work in the corner to neutralize Kaiden Guhle and get open in front made him the beneficiary of Benjafield’s pass. He made no mistake scoring his second of the night and sixth of the postseason.
It was as close as they would come though.
With 3:20 left to play in the second period the Raiders retook their two-goal lead. A diving Brett Leason stabbed the puck towards the middle of the ice and Protas had nothing between himself and Myskiw. The breakaway chance worked and it was the hat trick goal for Protas. The goal gave the rookie 11 post-season goals, two more than teammate Dante Hannoun for the league lead.
In the final 20 minutes, Edmonton did everything they could to get pucks past Ian Scott. It was to no avail, Scott stopped all 11 shots, including a late-game flurry of activity with the Oil Kings net empty.
Obviously dejected the Oil Kings were still able to hold their heads high, many had not picked them to be playing hockey in the last days of the month of April.
“I don’t think anybody thought we would be here right now at the start of the year,” an emotional captain Trey Fix-Wolansky told OilKings.ca. “It’s pretty tough right now but looking back on it it’s pretty special. That’s a special group in there.”
“There’s some sad faces, some wet eyes in there,” said a reflecting head coach Brad Lauer. “There is a lot of guys that came a long way. They accomplished an awful lot, one as individuals but also as a group.”
“It sucks,” defenceman Wyatt McLeod stated bluntly. “We came a long way as a team this year from day one. We stuck together and grew together. To see it end, it’s tough.”
Winning the series marked the first time the Prince Albert Raiders are in the WHL Final since 1984-85 when the team won the league as well as the Memorial Cup.
Just notes… Three stars were Andrew Fyten, Fix-Wolansky, and Protas. Prince Albert was 2-for-5 on the power play with a short-handed goal scored against, Edmonton was 0-for-4. Fix-Wolansky lead all skaters with 8 shots on net, Protas had 5. Fyten was 11-of-13 in the faceoff dot. Ian Scott made 32 saves in the win, Dylan Myskiw had 20. The WHL Championship series begins on Friday, May 3rd in Prince Albert.
The Raiders hang on for the 4-2 win and are Eastern Conference Champions.
Hell of a season for this @EdmOilKings team and a massive salute to Vince Loschiavo, Quinn Benjafield and Andrew Fyten for their tremendous @TheWHL careers.#PAvsEDM #WHLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/kPlXKeSTTb
— Andrew Peard (@AndrewPeard) April 28, 2019