Monday, 20 May 2019

Huskies, bad luck beat Raiders

Prince Albert faces elimination from Memorial Cup

Noah Gregor had three points for the Raiders on Monday.
    Is the magic running out for the Prince Albert Raiders?
    The ending of Monday’s round robin game at the Memorial Cup tournament in Halifax, N.S., might be a bad omen for the WHL champions.
    The Raiders entered the third period locked in a 3-3 tie with the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in a clash played before 9,186 spectators at the Scotiabank Centre.
    Inside of the final five minutes of the third period, the puck luck did not go the way of the Raiders. The Huskies scored two gritty goals and put a third into an empty net for a 6-3 victory.
    With 4:32 remaining in the third, the Huskies jumped ahead 4-3, when 19-year-old right-winger Tyler Hinam scored his second of the night.
    Huskies star offensive defenceman Noah Dobson drove down the right wing into the Prince Albert zone and threw a pass to the front of the Raiders net. The puck sat loose in front of the Prince Albert goal and Hinam beat everyone to the puck firing home what turned out to be the winning tally.
    With 3:07 remaining in the third, the Huskies received another bit of puck luck to go up 5-3. A centring pass from Huskies centre Peter Abbandonato deflected off the skate of Raiders defenceman Zack Hayes right to Huskies left-winger Joel Teasdale, who was in perfect shooting position right in front of the Prince Albert net.
    Teasdale blew home his second goal of the contest to put the Huskies up two.
    Dobson added an empty-net tally with 1:41 remaining in the third to round out the Huskies three-goal surge and the 6-3 final.
    The result ruined a great game for Raiders star overage centre Noah Gregor, who had a goal and two assists in the contest.
Brayden Pachal had a goal for the Raiders.
    The win allows the Huskies to improve to 1-1. They will conclude round robin play on Wednesday with a game against the host Halifax Mooseheads, who are 2-0 in the tournament.
    The Raiders fell to 0-2 at the tournament with the loss. They will need to beat the OHL champion Guelph Storm, who are 1-1, in a round robin game on Tuesday (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet) to earn a likely berth into a standings tiebreaker game on Thursday.
    Prince Albert could conceivably end up in Friday’s semifinal, but would need to blowout the Storm on Tuesday and hope the Huskies lose on Wednesday. The Raiders are hampered in any tiebreaking scenario posting by far the worst goals for-and-against ratio after two games with four goals for and 10 goals against.
    If the Raiders lose on Tuesday, their season is over.
    This marks the second time the Raiders are facing elimination from the current post-season.
    Their only other elimination game came back on May 13, when overage centre Dante Hannoun scored in overtime in Game 7 of the WHL final in a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants. Of course, that victory allowed the Raiders to win their second WHL championship and the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    Monday’s result also marks the 12th straight time the WHL champion has lost a game at the Memorial Cup tournament. The last time a WHL champion posted a win at the Memorial Cup came back on May 29, 2015, when the Kelowna Rockets hammered the host Remparts 9-3 in Quebec City, Quebec, in a semifinal contest.
    The clash between the Raiders and Huskies featured the squads that posted the two largest regular season win totals in the CHL in 2018-19.
    The Raiders posted the WHL’s best regular season record at 54-10-2-2 and were also rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    The Huskies topped the QMJHL regular season standings with a 59-8-0-1 record and were rated first in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
Cole Fonstad had a goal for the Raiders on Monday.
    Monday’s game started with the goalies on each side giving up a weak goal.
    At the 4:34 mark of the opening frame, Hinam snuck home his first of the contest from a bad angle standing along the right corner boards by the icing line in the Prince Albert zone to give Rouyn-Noranda a 1-0 lead. It was an uncharacteristic shot allowed by Raiders star netminder Ian Scott.
    Just under four minutes later, Raiders star left-winger Cole Fonstad scored on a wraparound to even things up at 1-1. Fonstad’s shot just snuck under the skate of Huskies star netminder Samuel Harvey, who didn’t have a strong seal on the post of his net.
    At the 13:47 mark of the first, the Raiders jumped ahead 2-1, when Gregor found captain Brayden Pachal pinching down from the point on a backdoor feed. Pachal, who rounded into an offensive defenceman this season, fired the puck into an empty right side of the Rouyn-Noranda goal.
    With 1:28 remaining in the first, the Huskies scores a picturesque power-play goal to even things up at 2-2. Felix Bibeau and Rafael Harvey-Pinard combined to set up Teasdale for an open backdoor chance to the right side of the Prince Albert net.
    Teasdale made no mistake knocking home his first goal of the contest.
    At the 12:59 mark of the second, the Huskies jumped ahead 3-2. Huskies import left-winger Jakub Lauko centred a pass from behind the Prince Albert net to Bibeau, who was alone in front of the goal.
Bibeau quickly wired home a shot to put Rouyn-Noranda up one.
    The Raiders evened things up at 3-3 with 2:17 remaining in the second, when Gregor took a smart drop pass from Fonstad and snapped home a shot from the right slot.
    That set the stage for the Huskies goal surge late in the third period.
Raiders netminder Ian Scott deal with some bad breaks on Monday.
    Scott turned away 27-of-32 shots to take the setback in goal for the Raiders. Harvey stopped 30 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies.
    Monday’s game was a much improved performance by both teams from their respective opening contests at the event. The Raiders fell 4-1 to the host Mooseheads on Friday.  The Huskies dropped a 5-2 decision to the Storm on Saturday.
    Prince Albert was way better than the 6-3 final in Rouyn-Noranda’s favour on Monday.
    Before any possible tiebreaking scenarios can be discussed, the Raiders need to post a win on Tuesday. If the Raiders don’t win on Tuesday, they will be the first club heading home from this year’s Memorial Cup as their spectacular 2018-19 campaign will have come to an end.

Hangover not kind for 2018 Memorial Cup teams

Titan goalie Evan Fitzpatrick makes a save in last year’s Memorial Cup.
    The 2018-19 campaign was not kind to the participants of the 2018 Memorial Cup held a year ago in Regina, Sask.
    None of the four teams from last year’s CHL championship tournament qualified for this year’s event currently going on in Halifax, N.S.
    Actually, three out of the four clubs had dreadful rebuilding campaigns.
    The Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the Memorial Cup a year ago as the QMJHL champions. They finished second overall in the QMJHL regular season with a 43-15-8-2 record.
    After going through a huge turnover on their roster and seeing head coach Mario Pouliot leave to become the head coach and general manager of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the Titan finished last this season in the QMJHL at 8-54-5-1.
    The Swift Current Broncos entered the 2018 Memorial Cup as WHL champions. The Broncos finished second overall in the WHL regular season in 2017-18 with a 48-17-5-2 record.
    After undergoing a massive turnover in the organization, the Broncos finished last in the WHL this season with an 11-51-4-2 record.
    The host Regina Pats fell 3-0 in the Memorial Cup championship game to the Titan a year ago. The Pats finished seventh overall in the WHL regular season with a 40-25-6-1 record in 2017-18.
Regina had serious roster turnover and finished third last in the WHL this season with a 19-45-1-3 record.
Glenn Gawdin finish off his CHL days at last year’s Memorial Cup.
    The Titan, Broncos and Pats stacked up their rosters with older players in an attempt to win the Memorial Cup.
    The Hamilton Bulldogs entered the 2018 Memorial Cup as champions of the OHL. The Bulldogs had the third best record in the OHL regular season in 2017-18 with a 43-18-4-3 record.
    The Bulldogs were the only participant from last year’s Memorial Cup that managed to earn a playoff berth this season. Hamilton posted a 29-34-3-2 record to finish in eighth and capture the final post-season berth in the OHL’s Eastern Conference.
    Hamilton was swept 4-0 in a best-of-seven first round playoff series against the Ottawa 67’s.
    The four participants at last year’s Memorial Cup showed just how quickly life can change in major junior hockey. The Titan, Broncos and Pats are expected to feel the effects of loading up to make it to that event still in the upcoming 2019-20 campaign.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 19 May 2019

Manson pumped by Raiders run to WHL championship, Memorial Cup appearance

Dave Manson addresses the Raiders during a timeout last season.
    Dave Manson will always live and breathe being a member of the Prince Albert Raiders, and he is taking special joy in tracking the team’s magical playoff journey from afar.
    The 52-year-old Prince Albert product was a tough as nails defenceman for his hometown WHL team from 1982 to 1986. He played a big part in helping the Raiders win the WHL title and the Memorial Cup in 1985.
    Manson was an assistant coach this season with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, who are a farm team for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
    Before joining the Condors, Manson was an associate coach with the Raiders from 2012 to 2018. He coached a number of players on the current Raiders club.
    The current Raiders won the WHL title for the second time in franchise history and are playing through the Memorial Cup tournament going on now in Halifax, N.S.
Captain Brayden Pachal earned praise as a leader from Dave Manson.
    The Raiders face the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the second round robin game for both teams on Monday (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet). Both sides lost their respective opening games at the CHL championship tournament.
    Manson loves seeing how tightly knit the current Raiders have become as a team over the years.
    “They are a team, and the team accomplishes more than individuals,” said Manson. “They have great leaders in (captain) Brayden Pachal and Parker Kelly.
    “They have all the pieces. They’ve done a good job of adding pieces to the puzzle. Every piece has kind of fit this year, so it has been great to see and great to watch when I can.
    “It is a big credit to coach (Marc) Habscheid and to Hunter (Curtis Hunt). Hopefully, they can get her done here now.”
    Manson saw Habscheid join the Raiders part way through the 2014-15 season as head coach and saw Hunt come on board as general manager before the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
    Manson and Hunt were teammates on the Raiders 1985 Memorial Cup winner.
    Habscheid was named the WHL’s coach of the year and Hunt earned honours as the WHL’s executive of the year for their work in helping the Raiders post the circuit’s best regular season record at 54-10-2-2.
Parker Kelly received props for his leadership from Dave Manson.
    The Raiders were also rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    Manson said the honours for both were well deserved. He said Habscheid did what Raiders legendary head coach and general manager Terry Simpson once did with the team.
    Simpson guided the Raiders to four Centennial Cup championships as junior A national champions and to the Memorial Cup title after the Raiders joined the major junior ranks in 1982.
    “Habby (Habscheid) has done a heck of a job,” said Manson. “In his tenure as head coach, he has slowly improved that team every year, and that is a credit to him.
    “It is the same as what (Terry) Simpson was like back in the day. You got a little better every day, and that is what you want to see. You want to see that improvement.”
    Manson has tracked the Raiders whenever he has had a chance. When the Raiders won Game 7 of the WHL final 3-2 in overtime on May 13 in Prince Albert, Manson was behind the Condors bench as they were eliminated by the host San Diego Gulls 6-2 in Game 6 of a second round AHL playoff series.
    After the May 13 games for both the Condors and the Raiders were finished, Manson was able to watch video of overage centre Dante Hannoun scoring the Game 7 overtime winner for the Raiders.
Dave Manson was happy Raiders fans got to see their team’s run up close.
    Manson said it was great the sellout crowd of 3,289 spectators at the 2,580 Art Hauser Centre could see the Raiders win the WHL title at home and enjoy the moment of the team celebrating with the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    “I’m very proud,” said Manson. “I’ve always been very proud of the Raider organization.
    “They don’t have to win a championship to make me proud, but the fact that they are having the success that they are having this year just puts a smile on my face. You play a small part in it, but a credit to the coaching staff they have now. They’ve done a great job keeping that group focused.
    “Hopefully now, they can finish this journey that they started.”

Mooseheads improve to 2-0 at Memorial Cup

    The host Halifax Mooseheads know the earliest they will hit the ice for the playoff round at the Memorial Cup will be in the event’s semifinal contest.
    On Sunday before 10,036 spectators at the Scotiabank Centre, the Mooseheads outlasted the OHL champion Guelph Storm 4-2 in a hotly contested round robin game.
    With the win, the Mooseheads, who lost the QMJHL final to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, improved to 2-0 at the Memorial Cup. The Mooseheads have locked up a berth to at least Friday’s semifinal contest of the event’s playoff round.
    The Storm fell to 1-1 at the event with the setback.
    At the 5:10 mark of the first period, Mooseheads captain Antoine Morand knocked home a setup pass from linemate Jocktan Chainey to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
    With 49.8 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Storm defenceman Sean Durzi drove a point shot home to the top right corner of the Halifax goal to even things up at 1-1.
    Halifax went ahead 2-1 at the 6:48 mark of the second on a highlight reel short-handed goal from Raphael Lavoie. Lavoie jetted into the Guelph zone, split two Storm defencemen and roofed home a shot to the top left corner of the Guelph net to give his side the lead.
    The Mooseheads extended their advantage to 3-1 at the 10:34 mark of the second, when left-winger Maxim Trepanier knocked home a loose puck in the crease of the Guelph goal.
    The Storm didn’t go away. Just 67 seconds into the third and working on a power play, Durzi slipped home a point shot through a screen for his second goal of contest to cut the Mooseheads edge to 3-2.
    The Mooseheads rounded out the scoring at the 7:20 mark of the third, when a shot by overage centre Samuel Asselin bounced up and over Storm netminder Anthony Popovich into the Guelph goal.
    Alexis Gravel made 33 saves to pick up the win in net for the Mooseheads. Popovich turned away 38 shots to take the setback in net for the Storm.
    Halifax finished first in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference in the regular season with a 49-15-2-2 mark and was rated eighth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    The Storm finished eighth overall in the OHL’s regular season with a 40-18-6-4 mark.
    The Memorial Cup continues on Monday when the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders face the QMJHL champion Huskies (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet).

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 18 May 2019

Raiders watch party could be bigger after long weekend

Raiders fans watch their team intensely on a big screen.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A few hearty souls were able to hold off the allures of the lake to get together to support the Prince Albert Raiders.
    On Friday, about 150 people gathered at the Art Hauser Centre to watch the broadcast of the Raiders first game at the Memorial Cup tournament in Halifax, N.S., on a huge big screen television that was set up on the building’s drained ice surface. The club’s staff that remained in “Hockey Town North” to keep the home fires burning while the team participates in the CHL’s championship tournament helped set up the watch party.
    The gathering likely could have been bigger had it not been for the fact Friday was the start of the May long weekend.
    Driving to Prince Albert from Saskatoon, the intersection where Highway 11 turns north to Highway 2 at 5 p.m. on Friday was lined with about 45 vehicles, and most of those were haft-ton trucks pulling some sort of a camper unit. It was pretty obvious most of those vehicles were heading to the vast lake country north of Prince Albert.
    The watch party itself was still fairly fun. With Prince Albert being a small city with a population of about 36,000 people, most of the people at the gathering knew each other.
A couple of fans chuckle watching Friday’s Raiders game on a big screen.
    As the Raiders faced the host Halifax Mooseheads at the opening game of the Memorial Cup, the party at the Art Hauser Centre started with cheers, but quickly became silent as Halifax took a 2-0 first period lead.
    Applause would spark up a little any time Raiders star netminder Ian Scott made a big save.
    As the second period got underway, the cheers started up again along with chants of “go Raiders go.”
    The noise hit a peak when star overage centre Noah Gregor tipped home a point shot from offensive defenceman Max Martin at the 10:46 mark of the second period. That goal cut the Mooseheads lead to 2-1.
    For about the next 10 minutes in real time, you would have thought a Raiders game was happening live at the Art Hauser Centre.
    The excitement came to a halt when defenceman Jake Ryczek scored on the power play to give the Mooseheads a 3-1 advantage with 4:08 remaining in the second period.
    When Mooseheads centre Antoine Morand scored an empty-net goal with 1:53 remaining in the third, a number of people at the watch party started making their way to the exits and by the sounds of the chatter, most were heading to the lake country too.
    It hadn’t hit 8 p.m. in Prince Albert yet, so there was lots of time to commute.
    After the third period clock expired on a 4-1 victory for the Mooseheads, the rest of the fans in the building made their way to the exits.
    Again from the chatter, it sounded like the lake country was the next destination for most.
The Raiders up on the big screen on Friday.
    About five minutes after the game ended, the Art Hauser Centre was empty outside of rink staffers.
    While things didn’t go well for the Raiders on the scoreboard on Friday, those at the watch party enjoyed coming together as a community to watch the team from afar. As Friday’s game progressed, many said they would be back for Monday’s watch party, when the Raiders take on the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet).
    If the Raiders advance to the Memorial Cup’s championship game on May 26, it is likely a lot more people will head to the Art Hauser Centre for that watch party.

Storm, Toropchenko impress in 5-2 win over Huskies

    The Guelph Storm announced their arrival at the Memorial Cup with an impressive statement win.
    The Ontario Hockey League champions faced the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who are the champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, on Saturday in the first game for both sides at the CHL championship tournament.
    The Huskies topped the QMJHL regular season standings with a 59-8-0-1 record and were rated first in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. They took the best-of-seven QMJHL final 4-2 against the Halifax Mooseheads.
    The Storm finished eighth overall in the OHL’s regular season with a 40-18-6-4 mark. Guelph went on a remarkable run in the OHL playoffs.
    The Storm trailed the London Knights 3-0 in a best-of-seven second round series and rallied for four straight wins for a 4-3 series victory.
    In the best-of-seven Western Conference final, the Storm fell behind the Saginaw Spirit 3-1 before rallying for three straight wins to take the series 4-3.
    In the best-of-seven OHL final, the Storm fell behind the Ottawa 67’s 2-0 before rallying for four straight wins to take the series 4-2.
    On paper, it appeared the Huskies would be favoured over the Storm, but the Storm players had other ideas. They skated to a 5-2 victory over the Huskies before 9,509 spectators at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S.
    The Huskies took a 1-0 lead at the 2:17 mark of the first period on a goal from 19-year-old centre Vincent Marleau.
    At that point, the rest of the first period turned into the Alexey Toropchenko show. The Storm right-winger, who is from Moscow, Russia, evened things up at 1-1 scoring a short-handed goal off a Huskies own zone turnover with nine minutes to play in the first.
    With 6:53 remaining in the first, Toropchenko gathered a rebound of a shot taken by Storm defenceman Jack Hanley in front of the Huskies net to pot his second goal of the contest.
    Toropchenko completed his hat trick with 1:37 remaining in the opening frame, when he was sprung on a breakaway by Storm defenceman Sean Durzi on a stretch pass. On the breakaway, Toropchenko tucked a shot in between the legs of Huskies netminder Samuel Harvey.
    During the regular season, Toropchenko had 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points in 62 games. In the OHL playoffs, he netted 13 goals and six assists for 19 points in 24 games.
    MacKenzie Entwistle gave the Storm a 4-1 advantage at the 3:20 mark of the second.
    Jakub Lauko replied for the Huskies at the 11:16 mark of the second to cut the Storm lead to 4-2.
    With 44.3 seconds remaining in the second, Nick Suzuki scored for the Storm to round out the 5-2 victory.
    Anthony Popovich turned away 22 shots to take the win in goal for the Storm. Harvey turned away 24 shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies.
    Harvey is one of three players the Huskies have on their roster from the last time they appeared in the Memorial Cup back in 2016 in Red Deer, Alta., along with centre Peter Abbandonato and defenceman Jacob Neveu. Neveu, who is an overager, was scratched on Saturday due to fracturing his jaw blocking a shot in Game 2 of the QMJHL final.
    The Huskies fell 3-2 in overtime in the title game at the 2016 Memorial Cup to the Knights. Matthew Tkachuk had the winner for the Knights.
    Action resumes at the Memorial Cup on Sunday when the host Halifax Mooseheads take on the Storm (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet).

Dyck throws caution, notes good hand with Giants

Bowen Byram could be a key returnee to the Giants.
    The WHL Championship series will likely only be the beginning for the resurgent Vancouver Giants.
    On Monday, the Giants bowed out of the post-season falling 3-2 in overtime in Game 7 of the WHL final to the host Prince Albert Raiders at the Art Hauser Centre. Vancouver finished second overall in the WHL with a 48-15-3-2 mark and was rated sixth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
Going into the current post-season, the Giants were in search of their first playoff series victory since 2010. 
    From 2011 to 2018 the Giants missed the playoffs four times and were eliminate in the first round in their four playoff appearances.
    Vancouver has the potential to return star offensive defenceman Bowen Byram and netminder Trent Miner as 18-year-olds. The Giants could have steady Dylan Plouffe on defence as an overager and Alex Kannok Leipert, Kalek Bulych and Seth Bafaro on the back end as 19-year-olds.
    Up front, Tristen Nielsen and import Yannik Valenti could be back as a 19-year-olds, Lukas Svejkovsky as an 18-year-old and Justin Sourdif as a 17-year-old.
    While Plouffe would seem to be a lock for one of the three overage spots, five forwards will be in the running for those spots in import Milos Roman, Owen Hardy, Dawson Holt, Jadon Joseph and Brayden Watts.
Lukas Svejkovsky will look to play a bigger role with the Giants.
    Defenceman Landon Fuller would be highly unlikely to be around to compete for an overage spot due to only playing 21 career regular season games in the WHL. Netminder David Tendeck could be an overager, but he is an NHL Entry Draft selection of the Arizona Coyotes and could be in their system.
    Michael Dyck will be in his second season guiding the Giants as head coach. He optimistic about next season throws caution to the win.
    The veteran bench boss said the team still has to wait to see who will be in their lineup and who might stick in the professional ranks.
    “We’ve got the building blocks in place,” said Dyck. “It is a new team, but certainly the building blocks are in place, but we will see what happens.
    “Obviously, Bowen Byram is going to be a high draft pick (in the NHL Entry Draft). We could have a bunch of guys drafted. That is our job is to develop guys to get them ready for the next level, but the building blocks are in place.
    “It is exciting.”
    Dyck praised the efforts of Giants outgoing 20-year-olds in captain Jared Dmytriw, winger Davis Kock and defenceman Dallas Hines for helping return the team to being one of the top clubs in the league.
    “For our 20-year-olds that are moving on, they left a legacy here,” said Dyck. “They’ve been a huge part of the chance in the culture and winning some respect back.
    “For our younger guys, what an experience it was for them and a foundation to build on.”

Raiders sign Crocker to players agreement

    While the Prince Albert Raiders are in Halifax, N.S., playing in the Memorial Cup, they locked up part of their future.
    On Thursday, the Raiders announced they signed forward Niall Crocker to a WHL Standard Players Agreement. The Raiders selected Crocker in the first round and 22nd overall in the WHL Bantam Draft held on May 2.
    Crocker, who will turn 15-years-old in late July, already stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 161 pounds.
    In 30 games with the Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep program, Crocker piled up 18 goals and 27 assists for 45 points. He added two goals and an assist in three playoff games.
    Crocker is eligible to appear in five regular season games in 2019-20 with the Raiders as a 15-year-old.

Never say never again, back in the Daily Herald

One of my stories in the Daily Herald’s special section.
    If you checked out Friday’s edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, you are in for a treat.
    The staff at the Daily Herald put together a special Prince Albert Raiders section due to the fact the team is playing in the Memorial Cup.
    I contributed three stories for the special section. Two stories revolved around the 1984-85 Raiders who won the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup.
    The third piece was my “More than just a hockey team” column on the Raiders.
    When I left the Daily Herald as a sports reporter back in September of 2004, I didn’t think I would ever have the chance to write for that publication again. I am happy I was wrong in this instance.
    I believe you can still purchase copies of Friday’s edition of the Daily Herald in Prince Albert, or pop by their office during office hours to pick up a copy.
    The staff there did a great job with the special section.
    Also of note, the Raiders captured the Memorial Cup 34 years ago today in 1985 with a 6-1 victory over the Shawinigan Cataractes, who were the tournament hosts.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 17 May 2019

All pressure off Raiders after opening loss at Memorial Cup

Noah Gregor had the Raiders only goal on Friday.
    The Prince Albert Raiders have nothing to lose and everything to gain going forward at the Memorial Cup tournament.
    On Friday before 9,926 spectators at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, the Raiders fell 4-1 to the host Mooseheads in the opening game of the tournament that determines the CHL champion.
    With the loss, the WHL champion has fallen in 11 straight games at the Memorial Cup. The last time a WHL champion posted a win at the Memorial Cup came back on May 29, 2015, when the Kelowna Rockets hammered the host Remparts 9-3 in Quebec City, Quebec, in a semifinal contest.
    A WHL team has only succeeded in winning one of the last 10 Memorial Cup titles.
    With that loss, the fact the Raiders topped the WHL regular season standings with a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings will be a faded recollection.
    At the Memorial Cup tournament level, the expectation for the Raiders going forward will be that they end up like the other WHL entries that participated at the last 10 Memorial Cups excluding the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014. When they return to Prince Albert, the expectation is the Raiders will not have the Memorial Cup in hand.
    Any thoughts of winning the Memorial Cup have to be put on the back burner until they break the losing streak the WHL champion has at this event.
    At the moment, the notion that WHL teams taking part in the Memorial Cup tournament will not be as strong as their counterparts in the OHL and QMJHL has just been reinforced. That notion won’t be lifted until the WHL champion finally wins a game again at this event.
Ian Scott made 33 saves in goal for the Raiders on Friday.
    The Mooseheads weren’t your ordinary host team that experienced a long wait after an early exit from their league playoffs.
    Halifax finished first in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference in the regular season with a 49-15-2-2 mark and was rated eighth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. The Mooseheads fell in the QMJHL final to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 4-2 in a best-of-seven series.
    The toughest part for the Raiders on Friday was the fact they started the game with three first period power plays and came away empty handed. They also had some momentum from an early hit offensive defenceman Max Martin dished out on Mooseheads centre Keith Getson.
    After the first two penalties were killed, the Mooseheads went ahead 1-0 when right-winger Raphael Lavoie centred a pass to centre Samuel Asselin fired home the go-ahead goal at the 10:46 of the opening frame. Raiders defenceman Zack Hayes was trying to check Lavoie but was accidentally picked on the play by referee Mario Maillet.
    The pick allowed Lavoie a clear lane to pass the puck to Asselin.
    Following the kill of the third Raiders power play, Asselin, who was a member of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan’s Memorial Cup winning team last season, sent a backdoor feed to linemate Xavier Parent, who tapped in a goal to give Halifax a 2-0 lead at the 18:44 mark of the opening frame.
    In the second, the Raiders got into penalty trouble including starting the frame with two delay of game penalties for clearing the puck over the glass.
    After killing off a third period, Prince Albert got on the boards when star overage centre Noah Gregor tipped home a point shot from Martin to cut the Mooseheads lead to 2-1.
Max Martin had an assist for the Raiders on Friday.
    Halifax regained momentum going on its fourth power play of the second period. Mooseheads defenceman Jake Ryczek one-timed home a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle on a beauty feed from left-winger Maxim Trepanier to give the host side a 3-1 edge.
    Trepanier picked up assists on all three of Halifax’s goals to that point in the contest.
    Late in the second, Raiders overage centre Dante Hannoun tried to tuck home a backhander into what appeared to be an open right side of the Halifax net, but he was robbed on a diving stick save from Mooseheads goalie Alexis Gravel.
    Halifax controlled played in the third holding a 15-4 edge in shots on goal, and centre Antoine Morand, who is an NHL Entry Draft selection of the Anaheim Ducks, rounded out the final score with an empty-net goal with 1:53 remaining in the frame.
    Ian Scott turned away 33-of-36 shots to take the setback in goal for the Raiders. Gravel stopped 23 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Mooseheads.
    The Raiders failed to score on four power-play chances, while the Mooseheads were 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
    The Memorial Cup continues Saturday as the QMJHL champion Huskies face the OHL champion Guelph Storm.
    The Raiders are off until Monday, when they face another daunting task taking on the Huskies (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet).
    The Huskies topped the QMJHL regular season standings with a 59-8-0-1 record and were rated first in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
Dante Hannoun was robbed on a late second period scoring chance.
    While the Huskies will be a tough foe, expect the Raiders to be better in that contest.
    The Prince Albert squad arrived in Halifax on Wednesday. When Monday’s game rolls around, the Raiders will have spent four full days in the Nova Scotia capital city, which should help them be fully adjusted to the three-hour time change.
    The Raiders will have had a couple of practices, and head coach Marc Habscheid and his coaching staff will have been able to scout the other three teams in the field over two games before the Monday contest with the Huskies rolls around.
    The Raiders might not be able to overcome the woes the WHL champion has incurred at the last 10 Memorial Cups, but they will have an optimal shot to overcome those woes.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Thursday, 16 May 2019

Raiders face next biggest challenge – the WHL’s jinx at the Memorial Cup

The Raiders enjoyed winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup on Monday.
    It has been a magical season for the Prince Albert Raiders, but they might be facing their biggest test yet that could be tougher to overcome than any adversary at the Memorial Cup.
    Fresh off having won the WHL title on Monday thanks to Dante Hannoun’s thrilling overtime winner in Game 7 of the league final, the Raiders will try to overcome the WHL’s decade long jinx at the Memorial Cup.
    The Raiders, who possess the WHL championship trophy the Ed Chynoweth Cup, open the Memorial Cup in Halifax, N.S., on Friday taking on the host Mooseheads (5 p.m. Saskatchewan time, Sportsnet).
    Over the past 10 tournaments that have determined the CHL champion, a WHL club has come out victorious just once in 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings captured the Memorial Cup in London, Ont.
    The Oil Kings were skating with an emotional edge as they were playing to honour the memory of former player Kristians Pelss. Pelss was a member of Edmonton’s 2012 WHL championship team and passed away in 2013 due to a recreation diving accident.
    Outside of that heartfelt victory, WHL clubs have watched teams from the CHL’s two other major junior leagues skate away with the Memorial Cup in nine of the past 10 tournaments.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan won last year’s Memorial Cup.
    Clubs from the OHL won the Memorial Cup five times over that span of time, while clubs from the QMJHL have taken the title four times.
    A year ago in Regina, the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan blanked the host Pats 3-0 in the Memorial Cup’s championship game.
    The club that has entered the Memorial Cup as the WHL champions have lost 10 straight games at this event. The last time a WHL champion posted a win at the Memorial Cup came back on May 29, 2015, when the Kelowna Rockets hammered the host Remparts 9-3 in Quebec City, Quebec.
    Two days after that contest, the Rockets fell in a 2-1 overtime heartbreaker to the OHL champion Oshawa Generals in the Memorial Cup final.
The Swift Current Broncos went winless in the 2018 Memorial Cup.
    Since the 2015 tournament, the WHL has hosted the Memorial Cup twice and the host teams have fared better but weren’t able to win the championship trophy. In 2016, the Red Deer Rebels were 2-2 as the tournament host, and the Pats were 3-2 at last year’s event.
    It seems like a black cloud of bad luck hangs over the WHL teams that have visited the last 10 Memorial Cups excluding the Oil Kings in 2014.
    At times, it feels like the puck luck doesn’t go in the WHL’s favour. A year ago, the Swift Current Broncos entered the Memorial Cup as WHL champions and fell by one-goal margins in all three of their round robin games.
    Other times, a super team shows up like in 2010 in Brandon, Man., when Taylor Hall and the OHL champion Windsor Spitfires posted a perfect 4-0 record outscoring the opposition 28-9.
    If you are really superstitious, you wonder if the “Curse of the Drop” still exists.
    What is the “Curse of the Drop” you ask?
    On May 25, 2008, the WHL champion Spokane Chiefs downed the host Kitchener Rangers 4-1 in the Memorial Cup tournament’s championship game. It marked the second time the Chiefs captured the Memorial Cup to become CHL champions.
Brett Leason, right, had a big season for the Raiders.
    After winning the title in 2008, Chiefs captain Chris Bruton accepted the Memorial Cup. Bruton turned and was going to give the Memorial Cup to defenceman Trevor Glass. Glass, who was in his 19-year-old season at the time, was with the Medicine Hat Tigers the previous campaign when they won the WHL title and fell 3-1 in the Memorial Cup championship game to the host Vancouver Giants.
    As Bruton reached out to hand the Memorial Cup to Glass, the trophy separated at the neck and fell to the ice to the shock of the spectators in Kitchener, Ont.
    Following that moment, the WHL went on its longest drought ever of not winning major junior hockey’s biggest prize spanning five seasons from 2009 to 2013.
    After the Oil Kings reprieve in 2014, the WHL has come up empty on winning the championship in the last four straight Memorial Cup tournaments.
Noah Gregor was a multi-dimensional player for the Raiders.
    Clubs from the WHL first became eligible to play for the Memorial Cup in the 1970-71 campaign.
    Still, the Raiders might be the team that can overcome these superstitious hexes.
    They topped the WHL regular season standings with a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    The Raiders are guided by head coach Marc Habscheid, who has been to this point before.
    Habscheid steered the Kelowna Rockets into the 2003 Memorial Cup as head coach and oversaw the Rockets winning the 2004 Memorial Cup as the host team.
    Raiders assistant coach Jeff Truitt was on those Kelowna coaching staffs as an assistant coach in 2003 and an associate coach in 2004.
    Prince Albert is arguably one of the WHL’s deepest and most healthy entries compared to the last 10 WHL champions who have entered the Memorial Cup.
Dante Hannoun was the Game 7 WHL final OT hero.
    Star right-winger Brett Leason led the Raiders in regular season scoring with 36 goals and 53 assists for 89 points, while posting a plus-55 rating in the plus-minus department.
    Overage star centre Noah Gregor was second in regular season scoring for the Raiders posting 43 goals and 45 assists for 88 points to go with a plus-49 rating.
    Prince Albert has a host of other forwards who can score at any time like Hannoun, Parker Kelly, Sean Montgomery, Cole Fonstad, Aliaksei Protas and Ozzy Wiesblatt.
    Captain Brayden Pachal put up the most points out of all the Raiders defenceman. The Estevan, Sask., product racked up 15 goals and 36 assists for 51 points.
    He topped the entire WHL in plus-minus with a plus-76 rating. Defensive partner Zack Hayes was second in the league in plus-minus with a plus-71 rating, while contributing three goals and 24 assists on the offensive end.
    The Raiders starting six on defence in Pachal, Hayes, Max Martin, Sergei Sapego, Jeremy Masella and Kaiden Guhle is one of the best in the CHL.
    Star netminder Ian Scott had a spectacular regular season posting a 38-8-3 record, a 1.83 goals against average, a .932 save percentage and a team record eight shutouts.
    The Raiders play a skilled game that has a physical edge, which sees the team throw a lot of big hits.
The Raiders want to enjoy lots of moments like these at the Memorial Cup.
    Of course, no win is a given at the Memorial Cup as the three other teams in the field are all good.
    The Mooseheads finished first in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference in the regular season with a 49-15-2-2 mark and were rated eighth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. They fell in the QMJHL final to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
    The Mooseheads will provide a stern first test for Prince Albert.
    The Raiders have the make up to win the Memorial Cup on their own merit, but they will likely be open to their fans bringing four leaf clovers or other good luck charms to game to combat the sour luck the WHL has had in recent times at this event.

Check for my Raiders article in the Memorial Cup program


    I don’t want to sound like I am high on myself, but you will be in for a treat when you buy a game program at the Memorial Cup.
    At this year’s Memorial Cup that starts on Friday and runs through to May 26 in Halifax, N.S., I had the honour of writing the feature story to preview the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders. The article has already been featured online, but I am expecting the hard copy version to include a number of cool photos.
Raiders captain Brayden Pachal raises the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    The hard copy version will be laid out in sort of the style you would traditionally see in Sports Illustrated.
    This marks the second time I wrote a team preview story for the Memorial Cup program. Back in 2007 when the Memorial Cup was played in Vancouver, B.C., I wrote the preview story on the Medicine Hat Tigers, who were that year’s WHL champions, for the tournament’s game program.
    At that time, I was covering the Tigers as a beat writer for the Medicine Hat News.
    When it comes time to write these program articles, you have to do it in a quick turnaround time, and I was pleased with how my Raiders story turned out. You can check it out by clicking right here.
    I also wrote about Games 6 and 7 of the WHL final for The Canadian Press.
    If you want to read the Game 6 story about the Vancouver Giants downing the Raiders 4-2, you can do so by clicking here.
    If you want to read the Game 7 story about the Raiders downing the Giants 3-2 in overtime on Dante Hannoun’s winner, you can do so by clicking right here.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Hannoun’s Game 7 OT winner will be legendary in Raiders lore

Dante Hannoun lifts the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A day later, it is still hard to believe the finish that took place at the Art Hauser Centre.
    You still question, “Did Dante Hannoun’s overtime winning goal really happen?”
    There is no controversy whether Hannoun scored or not. If you support the Prince Albert Raiders, it seems almost too good to be true that a pretty play like Hannoun’s goal actually happened in the most nerve-racking of times.
    On Monday, the Raiders went to overtime locked in a 2-2 tie with the Vancouver Giants in a series deciding Game 7 of the WHL Championship series. The two best teams from the WHL’s regular season were in a situation where the next goal takes the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    The Raiders topped the WHL regular season standings with a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
The Raiders mob Dante Hannoun after his OT winner.
    Vancouver finished second overall in the WHL with a 48-15-3-2 mark and was rated sixth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    During the contest that featured various momentum swings, the sellout crowd of 3,289 spectators at the 2,580 seat rink gave their team a number of warm standing ovations. One of those ovations came at the start of overtime and others followed in the extra session.
    Still there were fears a glorious moment might not happen for the Raiders.
    Then it happened.
    With 1:35 remaining in overtime, Raiders star overage centre Noah Gregor had the puck at the left side of the Vancouver net.
The Art Hauser Centre faithful cheers the Raiders.
    He slid a smart backdoor pass across the front of the goal to Hannoun, who tapped home the puck for a 3-2 Raiders victory.
    The crowd noise exploded at the team’s long time home rink in a way that was likely never seen before. Complete pandemonium, euphoria and elation reigned supreme as Hannoun made a victory dash skate to the back boards in the Raiders zone.
    In the history of the Raiders, Hannoun’s goal will go down as one of those “where were you when” moments.
    Currently, it is the signature hockey play in the history of the rink.
Dante Hannoun scored one of the biggest goals in Raiders history.
    It delivered the Ed Chynoweth Cup to the Raiders as they won their second WHL title in team history and first since 1985.
    Hannoun’s goal and the victory proved to be that much more special, because it happened in Prince Albert. The Raiders faithful were able to share in a special generational moment at home.
    The last time the Raiders won a major hockey championship on home ice came back in 1982, during the franchise’s final year in the junior A ranks. That season, the Raiders downed the Guelph Platers 8-4 in Prince Albert in the deciding game of the Centennial Cup championship series to become national champions at the junior A level for a fourth and final time.
    In the 13 seasons previous to the 2018-19 campaign, the Raiders missed the playoffs seven times and were eliminated in the first round six times.
    Their magical regular season combined with the fact they advanced to the WHL final restored the luster and the romanticized great vision of the skilled team that was tough and is honourable.
Dante Hannoun has become a favourite with the Raiders faithful.
    Hannoun’s goal took things to another level, where the current Raiders will be bonded together forever as league champions.
    The hard work of general manager Curtis Hunt, head coach Marc Habscheid and late director of player personnel Ron Gunville came to fruition in a major way on Monday.
    The pride and joy seen in the faces of Hunt and Habscheid watching their players enjoy the special victory was priceless.
    During the season, the Raiders players won with class and lost with class, but they rightfully let their hair down on Monday night.
Brett Leason enjoys a post-game photo opportunity.
    Hannoun’s goal allowed Raiders career overage centre Sean Montgomery to receive one of most rousing home salutes ever delivered in the building as he took the Ed Chynoweth Cup for a big swing around the rink. Montgomery played in a team record 345 career regular season games with the Raiders.
    Fellow veterans like Zack Hayes, captain Brayden Pachal, Max Martin, Spencer Moe, Cole Fonstad, Parker Kelly and star netminder Ian Scott all took growing pain lumps with the Raiders posting a 21-44-5-2 record in the 2016-17 campaign.
Duane “Puff” Bartley lifts the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    Now they all got to relish in a WHL title victory on the Art Hauser Centre ice surface with family and friends post-game.
    The victory helped celebrate a season that saw right-winger Brett Leason achieve star status and import left-winger Aliaksei Protas emerge as a clutch playoff performer.
    Right-winger Justin Nachbaur and defenceman Jeremy Masella give the Raiders a big shot of toughness, while still flashing moments of great skill from time to time.
    You can go up and down the Raiders roster and say great things about every player. They are all outstanding young men and good citizens.
    Another heartwarming aspect of the celebrations was the fact Duane “Puff” Bartley, who has been the Raiders athletic therapist since 2001, got to enjoy a championship moment.
    Popular skills coach Mark Odnokon, who played on the Raiders Centennial Cup winning teams in 1981 and 1982, has put in a tonne of work over the years as a coach with the Prince Albert club, and it was warm to see him lift the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Sean Montgomery goes for a skate with the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    The Raiders faithful too basked in the moment. During the regular season, they packed the Art Hauser Centre with standing room crowds to the average of 2,615 spectators per game.
    In the playoffs, the Raiders played 12 home games and the last 10 of those were all sellouts.
    Even in seasons where attendance wasn’t the greatest, there was always a sense that Raiders fans would be there to back their team when push came to shove. Now they got reward for sticking with the club through the down years.
    Hannoun’s OT winner sparked so many great stories.
    Now the Raiders will try to finish the season with the ultimate capper by winning the Memorial Cup. Prince Albert opens the CHL championship tournament in Halifax, N.S., against the host Mooseheads.
Aliaksei Protas (#21) and Sergei Sapego (#12) enjoy photo time.
    An unbelievable season has the potential to become just that much sweeter.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.