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Raiders pitch playoff shutout

It’s one win down and two to go for the St. Albert Raiders in their north division semifinal against the Leduc Oil Kings.

It’s one win down and two to go for the St. Albert Raiders in their north division semifinal against the Leduc Oil Kings.

On Wednesday night the Raiders put together a front-to-back effort in shutting out the Leduc Oil Kings 4-0 at Akinsdale Arena.

Winning the first game of any playoff series is crucial, especially in a best-of-five format.

“It's important, convincing or not, to get one under our belts and get comfortable with the playoffs. Our goal is to make this a long journey. It's one shift and one game at a time,” said assistant coach Geoff Giacobbo. “The important message is that we played well, but it's one win.”

Giacobbo was satisfied with a lot of what the Raiders did, but as has been the case throughout the season, the coaching staff always find things to improve on.

“We'll fine tune some stuff and make sure we continue to get pucks and bodies to the net,” he said. “On our penalty kill we need to make sure that our neutral zone is solid. We got caught a couple times with two guys deep. We scored two power play goals but we want to have good entry plays so we can establish possession in their end of the rink.”

Liam Liston stopped all 23 Leduc shots while the Raiders fired 39 shots at Jordon Cooke, who was solid despite allowing four goals.

“He's a really good goalie,” Giacobbo said of Cooke. “He's very good down low so we have to try get pucks up and if we're not, we need to shoot to get some rebounds and get bodies to the net.”

Three goals in the second period decided Wednesday’s outcome.

“The boys are pretty pumped to get the win here,” said forward Troy Bourke. “We got pucks deep and got greasy and looked for rebounds.”

Brady Goebel and Garth Wallin capitalized on the power play, with Wallin's tally coming at 11:25 of the third.

Bourke scored twice — once shorthanded with the second coming at even strength — five minutes apart.

“The first goal I got lucky on the PK. I got it from Garth off the rush and put it low on the glove side,” said the top goal scorer in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League with 27 in 34 games. “The second was the definition of grease. I got a rebound and took it to the backhand along the ice.”

In the north standings the Raiders finished the season with 12 more points and seven more wins than third-place Leduc (16-11-8). The teams played to a 5-5 tie in Leduc in the season opener and the Oil Kings edged the Raiders 3-2 in November at St. Albert.

Game two goes tonight at Sobey's Arena in Leduc at 8:30 p.m. The series returns to Akinsdale on Monday at 8 p.m.

“We have to keep getting pucks deep on their D-men. They're good back there and if we keep banging I think they'll start to back off a bit,” Bourke said. “On the power play they have really good pressure down low. They bring up their defence too and we have to watch out for that.”

The Raiders had a first round bye as the north co-leaders with the Lloydminster Bobcats at 23-6-6. Leduc swept the sixth-place Southside Athletic Club (15-16-4) by scores of 4-3 and 5-1.

During the break in the schedule the 1994-born Bourke had a chance to skate with the Prince George Cougars against the Edmonton Oil Kings at Rexall Place in his first Western Hockey League game. He said it was good to have the experience of playing against bigger, tougher and faster players.

“It started out a little rough, but it was really fun,” said the second-leading midget AAA point producer in league play with 53. “They're really professional about everything. It helps to know what they do before games, after games and to just be around them. It was a bit of an adjustment but I thought I made a decent transition.”