Saturday, 13 October 2018

Leason brings back the magic in Raiders victory

Brett Leason scored a creative winning goal for the Raiders.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – Brett Leason pulled off a move that Mike Modano likely never tried with the Prince Albert Raiders.
    With the Raiders locked in a 1-1 draw with the visiting Red Deer Rebels at the Art Hauser Centre, Leason tried a calculated dump into the Red Deer zone. The talented right-winger dumped the puck into the corner of the Rebels zone on a rush and the dump in came right back to him, when he skated to the front of the Red Deer net.
    The 19-year-old product of Calgary, Alta., quickly blasted home his seventh goal of the season to put the host side up 2-1. That score held up as the final as the Raiders send home an appreciative standing room crowd of 2,706 at their 2,580 seat facility home happy.
    “I saw the D (defenceman) had a bad gap, so I figured that was the time to use it,” said Leason, who was a plus-two in the plus-minus department on the night. “It worked out well.
The Raiders celebrate Brett Leason’s winning goal.
    “I never practiced that. It was my first try, and it worked pretty well. It is all good.”
    Leason’s move impressed veteran Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid, who has seen his share of creativity during his time in the sport of hockey.
    “He (Leason) is a talented guy,” said Habscheid. “He is a skilled guy. He has the mojo going, and when that happens, you try things.
    “He is the type of player that can pull off things like that. He has had a good year. He is very intelligent.
    “He is gangly. He kind of moves all over. He is gifted with the puck. That was obviously a huge goal.”
    A gifted point producer coming up through the minor hockey ranks in Calgary, Leason was selected in the third round and 50th overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft by the Tri-City Americans. Buried among the Americans forward group, he was traded in the early stages of last season to the Raiders.
Brett Leason had a goal and an assist in the Raiders win on Saturday.
    Leason, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 199 pounds, has jumped out to a hot start this season leading the Raiders in scoring with seven goals and 12 assists helping them post a 9-1 record. The Raiders are also rated second in the CHL Top 10 rankings.
    In 54 regular season games with the Raiders last season, Leason recorded 15 goals and 17 assists. Habscheid said Leason’s game has steadily progressed upwards, since he joined the Raiders.
    “I think he has improved a lot,” said Habscheid. “He plays much faster, and that is what we wanted from him.
    “We knew he had the skill. People questioned his skating, but we want him to play fast. He was committed to that, and he worked on that.
    “Now, he plays as fast as anybody out there. With the size and strength and skill that he has, he is tough to handle.”
    Backed a huge contingent of family in the stands, Leason said he is in the best groove he has ever had during this time in the WHL.
Sean Montgomery scored the Raiders first goal on Saturday.
    “My confidence level is pretty high,” said Leason, who is playing in his third full season on the major junior circuit. “I’m playing good hockey.
    “With the team of course 9-1, it (his confidence) is up really high right now.”
    Leason said he wants to keep playing well to make his family proud. His father, Darryl, and uncle, Michael, were stars with the Regina Rams in both the Canadian Junior Football League and in U Sports in the 1990s and early 2000s. While Brett excels at a different sport, he wants to do as well in hockey as Darryl and Michael did in football.
    “They were definitely big names growing up, so I want to try and perform like they did,” said Brett Leason. “I’m working on that.”
    The Raiders struck 68 seconds into Saturday’s tilt. With the Rebels defence having collapsed down on their goal, Leason found centre Sean Montgomery with a pass at an open side of the Red Deer net, and Montgomery potted his second tally of the season for a 1-0 lead.
Ethan Anders makes one of his 25 saves in goal for the Rebels.
    The Rebels drew even at 1-1 at the 4:07 mark of the first, when captain Reese Johnson powered home a one-time feed from linemate Josh Tarzwell.
    From there, the goalies on both sides took over. Ian Scott turned away 28 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Raiders included stoning Tarzwell at point-blank range late in the third period.
Ethan Anders stopped 25 shots taking the setback in goal for the Rebels (5-3-1).
    Scott received some great help from his defencemen, which included a couple of big shot blocks from Raiders 19-year-old rearguard Jeremy Masella late in the third period.
Ian Scott makes one of his 28 saves for the Raiders on Saturday.
    Leason said it was great to get a win in front of the big crowd that came out to the Art Hauser Centre after the Raiders posted a 3-1 record playing their previous four straight games on the road.
    “Playing in front of a crowd like that, it was good,” said Leason. “We were going the whole time. I’d like that to continue.
    “It definitely gets us going. When the crowd was chanting there, everyone was just feeling it.”
    The Rebels return to action this coming Friday, when they travel to Edmonton to face the Oil Kings.
    The Raiders return to action on Sunday, when they travel to Saskatoon to face the Blades (7-2) at 2 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. There is a good chance the Raiders will bring a healthy contingent of fans down to “the Bridge City.”
The Raiders and Rebels scrum it up in the third period.
    Habscheid hopes the Raiders followers know that they do have a positive impact on the team. 
    In the third period, the cheer of the Raiders faithful help give the atmosphere more of a playoff feel. 
    The bench boss was happy to see the big crowd out at the team’s home rink on Saturday night.
    “We really appreciate it,” said Habscheid. “Especially in this day and age, you look at all the sports the entertainment dollar it is tough to get.
    “We appreciate the people coming to the rink and spending it with us. It certainly helps our players for sure. We’re a smaller franchise and to get that kind of support helps not only the franchise itself but more importantly our players.
The Raiders salute the crowd at the Art Hauser Centre.
    “They come home, and they’ve worked hard to get a decent record and we’re ranked whatever that is worth. It is nice to have the people come out and appreciate the kids the way they do and it certainly helps them on the ice.”

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