Motivated Ice finish off Raiders in blowout
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/04/2022 (336 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Ice snuffed out the Prince Albert Raiders’ playoff hopes Friday night and were in no mood to show mercy.
Winnipeg outshot the visitors 35-13 and ignited an early blitz with four first-period goals en route to an 8-2 victory over the Raiders before 1,606 fans at Wayne Fleming Arena.
The victory gave the Ice a 4-1 series victory and a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinal against a yet to be determined opponent.
Winnipeg players, playing like they were annoyed to have missed a chance to sweep the Raiders during a 3-1 road loss in Game 4 Wednesday, came out full of fury in Game 5.
“A nine-hour bus ride (home) will do that to you,” explained Ice centre Jack Finley. “I think we didn’t play as great as we wanted to in Game 4 and I think that frustrated our group a little bit and gave us a little bit of extra motivation. I thought we came out came out hard and got on top of them early.”
Ice head coach James Patrick understood his players’ frustration.
“We were ticked off at ourselves… for letting it slip in that fourth game,” said Patrick. “… I think to a man, the mindset was we can play better than we played in Game 4. We played good (in Game 4) but we still passed up shots, we didn’t stop in front of the net (and) we gave up the most scoring chances of the five games.”
The Ice got off to a much better start in Game 5, denting the armour of P.A. goaltender Tikhon Chaika with Finley stuffing his own rebound into the back of the net at 9:58 of the first period, following by Zach Benson’s tricky forehand-to-backhand move at 14:18 and Mikey Milne’s fifth of the series 60 seconds later.
Rookie defenceman Jonas Woo made it 4-0 at 17:06, ripping the puck past Chaika after a solo dash down the left wing.
It was the first career playoff goal for the impossibly steady 15-year-old, who has played a combined 20 regular-season and playoff games since being drafted 18th overall in the WHL Prospects Draft less than five months ago.
Benson, meanwhile, leads the club in playoff scoring with five goals and 10 points.
“It’s crazy, you know, Jonas only being 15,” said Finley, who also had an assist. “He looks like an 18-, 19-year-old kid in the league with his vision and skill. He had a great goal tonight and Benson is a stud already. I know he’s only 16 years old but he’s one of the most skilled players and smartest players I’ve ever seen.”
Patrick estimated Woo’s ice time was approximately 20 minutes Friday.
“Yes, he’s a 15-year-old who’s not going to be as strong as the other teams 19- and 20-year-olds, but his hockey sense and where he positions himself is really good,” said Patrick. “… So even when there are breakdowns, boy, he gets in the right spot.”
Connor McClennon made it 5-0 less than two minutes into the second period, signalling the end of Chaika’s night. He left the game with 10 saves. His replacement, Max Hildebrand, stopped 17 of 20 shots.
“It’s an adjustment for sure playing regular season to the pace of this hockey but you know, I think as the series went on the guys really bought in and started to play more of a playoff hockey,” said Finley. “It’s just the start, the first series. I think we’ve got things we got to learn but for the most part I thought team played really well.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Hauser had another quiet night in the Winnipeg net, facing only one shot in the opening period.
He finished with 11 stops — the only shot to elude him was Reece Vitelli’s short-handed marker midway through the second period, Vitelli, an overage forward from Winnipeg, was playing the final game of this major-junior career.
Goals by Benson, with his fifth of the playoffs, Matt Savoie, with his first, and McClennon, with his fourth, helped Winnipeg pour it on in the final frame. Stanick rounded out P.A.’s scoring in the third period.
“It’s obviously a different intensity level than the regular season (but) P.A.’s a good team,” said Benson. “We played them quite a bit (in the regular season) and they were a hard challenge and this series was a hard challenge.”
If sixth-seeded Brandon was to eliminate the third-seeded Red Deer Rebels, the Ice will face the Wheat Kings in the next round. Otherwise, the Ice will face the winner of quarter-final between the No. 4 Moose Jaw Warriors and No. 5 Saskatoon Blades.
BLUE-LINES: Winnipeg went 0-for-5 on the power play and was a cumulative 8-for-20 in the series. The Raiders were scoreless in two chances… Three stars: 1. Zach Benson, Winnipeg (two goals, one assist); 2. Jack Finley, Winnipeg (one goal, two assists); 3. Connor McClennon, Winnipeg (two goals).
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.