Brady Goebel paced the surging St. Albert Raiders with two goals and two assists in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Canadian Athletic Club at Akinsdale Arena.
The result lifted the Raiders (19-5-6) into first place overall in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
“Everyone came together as a whole and we were all performing our roles,” said forward Bryton Mills.
The game also marked the return of Mills to the line-up after last Saturday’s scary incident when he suffered a sore neck and concussion symptoms after flying headfirst into the end boards in the first period during the 8-1 thrashing of the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (7-18-3) at St. Albert. He was taken to hospital by ambulance for precautionary reasons and was later released.
Mills certainly didn't seem worse for wear as he nearly dropped the flippers with Tyrell Goulbourne late in the first period.
“When I was skating off the ice, he asked me to go. Usually when you ask a guy to go, you drop your mitts first. So I asked him to go and he kept on skating. I guess I got a little lucky there,” laughed Mills, who is listed with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League.
According to a few teammates, it was probably the other way around.
“Millsy stepped up to the plate and did what he needed to do,” said head coach Sandro Pisani. “They were challenging him all game and I think they probably wanted him out of the game. We're happy he didn't get thrown out.”
The Raiders went three-for-nine with the man advantage while the Canadians (11-11-7) were one-for-six. The home team outshot the Canadians 31-15, allowing only two shots in the third period.
The first period was a gong show of penalties, with a total of 24 assessed between the two clubs, including a game misconduct to Goulbourne, who was giving the business to Jake Rawlins while the Raiders’ defender was prone on the ice.
To boot, not even five minutes into the game, Zach Ovics high-sticked Raiders’ goaltender Liam Liston in the throat with what appeared to be deliberate intent.
“Early on you could see they were trying to get Liston off his game,” Pisani said. “The high-stick was completely deliberate. You could see there was a game plan. To our credit I think we answered the bell and they didn't have an answer for Millsy all night.”
The Raiders responded to the high-stick on the scoresheet. A minute into the power play Goebel notched his first point of the contest.
“We moved the puck well and got pucks to the net. [Nick Walters' point shot] took a lucky bounce off the boards when I was going to the net and I got the rebound,” said Goebel, a high-scoring forward with the Spruce Grove PAC Timberwolves in the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League last season.
The Canadians tied it up four minutes later, as Branden Trook picked the glove side from inside the left circle past Liston.
After Mills and Goulbourne were both given dimes for circling each other late in the period, the refs went to the benches and instructed the coaches that any post-whistle activities would have the involved players tossed. The rest of the game passed in relative quiet after the whistles. Then it heated it up on the scoreboard.
Goebel notched his second of the game at 2:30 of period two with another power play goal.
“Spenny [Spencer Galbraith] got a good shot through on the ice and I got my stick on it and it found the back of the net. Got lucky on that one,” Goebel said.
The Canadians rebounded three minutes later, as Cole Sheen banked one off Liston's pad and in from the goal line.
At 13:49 the Raiders notched their third power play goal when Brett Grant picked up the second rebound off Chris Wray's right pad.
“We're moving the puck on the tape with good passes and we're executing our plays well,” Goebel said of the team’s potent power play. “When we run those set plays, we're effective and tough to stop.”
Matt Waseylenko wired a bullet 3:25 into the third period above Wray's extended right pad to make it 4-2. Ryan Harrison added the empty net goal.
Pisani is glad to see different players contributing on different nights, giving him options to rotate players through the line-up.
“The one thing this team has is depth. We're starting to finally see different individuals respond in different ways and bringing it to the table and Brady had a very good game today,” he said.
The next game for the Raiders is Jan. 31 against the KC Pats (9-14-7) at 2:30 p.m. at Akinsdale.
“They're going to be tight. They don't give us a lot. They play us hard and physical. We're going to have to find ways to get to the net against them, which we didn't do last time,” Pisani said.
The first and only time the teams have crossed paths all season, KC walked out with a 2-0 shutout in the Raiders' fifth game of the campaign.
“It was a tough loss. We didn't come out strong,” Goebel said. “They're a real playoff type team. We have to make sure we're coming out banging bodies and get lots of pucks and people to the net. They may be towards the bottom [of the north division] but they're tough to play against.”