Sunday, 28 April 2019

Protas knows playoffs – Belarusian’s second straight hatty puts Raiders in WHL final

Aliaksei Protas fired home a hat trick for the Raiders on Sunday.
    Thanks to Aliaksei Protas, no one in Prince Albert might show up for work on Monday morning.
    The “Viper” from Vitebsk fired home his second straight post-season hat trick on Sunday lifting the Prince Albert Raiders to a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 6 of the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series.
    With the win before 7,735 spectators at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Raiders locked up the best-of-seven set 4-2. They win their first WHL Eastern Conference title and advance to the WHL Championship series for the first time since 1985.
    In the process, they likely sparked parties all across Prince Albert. At midnight on Sunday, citizens in “Hockey Town North” will be gathering at the Art Hauser Centre to welcome the Raiders home.
    The party in P.A. is likely to run into the early hours of the morning.
Aliaksei Protas has seven points in his last two games.
    During this playoff run, Protas, who is an import rookie left-winger from Belarus, has come into his own, especially in the Raiders last two games.
    In 61 regular season games, Protas, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 192 pounds, posted 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points while adding a plus-24 rating in the plus-minus department.
    In the Raiders 16 post-season games to date, Protas leads the WHL with 11 goals, while adding four assists and posting a plus-11 rating.
    Over his last two outings, Protas has recorded six goals, one assist and a plus-four rating. He had three goals and an assist in the Raiders 4-0 victory in Game 5 over the Oil Kings on Friday in Prince Albert.
Noah Gregor had a goal for the Raiders on Sunday.
    The Oil Kings still put up a fight on Sunday showing why they topped the WHL’s Central Division and finished fifth overall in the league with a 42-18-4-4 record and were an honourable mention in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    They opened scoring at the 11:49 mark of the first period, when captain Trey Fix-Wolansky fired home a shot from the point. The 1-0 lead for the Oil Kings didn’t last long.
    Just 2:16 later, Protas sniped home a power-play goal from the right slot to even things up at 1-1.
Protas scored his second of the game to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead on a gaff by the Oil Kings.
    Edmonton centre Josh Williams tried to pass the puck across the front of his goal to teammate Conner McDonald, but Protas deflected the pass attempt past Oil Kings netminder Dylan Myskiw for the go-ahead goal.
    Just 3:11 after that tally, the Raiders went ahead 3-1 scoring another power-play goal with this one coming from overage centre Noah Gregor. Gregor got the puck in the right slot and wired a shot to the top right corner of the Edmonton goal.
Trey Fix-Wolansky had a pair of goals for the Oil Kings on Sunday.
    At the 10:41 mark of the second, the Oil Kings cut the gap to 3-2 on a short-handed goal from Fix-Wolansky.
    After nailing Raiders rookie defenceman Kaiden Guhle in the left corner of the Prince Albert zone, Fix-Wolansky skated to the front of the Raiders net and received a pass from linemate Quinn Benjafield.
    Holding the puck all alone to the right side of the Prince Albert goal, Fix Wolansky slid home a low shot past Raiders star netminder Ian Scott.
    Protas restored order with 3:20 remaining in the second. Raiders star right-winger Brett Leason made a diving stab pass that sprung Protas on a breakaway.
Josh Williams had an unfortunate gaff for the Oil Kings.
    The Belarusian proceeded to snipe his hat trick goal to the low left corner of the Edmonton net to give the Raiders a 4-2 advantage.
    Edmonton tried to mount a comeback in the third period opening the frame with three straight power plays and holding a 14-3 edge in shots on goal in the stanza.
    Fix-Wolansky wired a shot off the post, but that was as close as the host side came to scoring.
    Scott slammed the door and made 32 saves in the contest to pick up the win in goal for the Raiders.
Myskiw turned away 20 shots to take the setback in goal for the Oil Kings.
    The series win allows the Raiders to continue what has been a magical season for the franchise that has been backed by a passionate fanbase that has filled the Art Hauser Centre on a nightly basis and followed the team on the road.
Ian Scott made 32 saves in goal for the Raiders on Sunday.
    The Raiders topped the overall WHL standings for the first time since 1985 posting a 54-10-2-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    When the Raiders appeared in the WHL final in 1985, they swept away the Kamloops Blazers 4-0 in a best-of-seven series and moved on to win the Memorial Cup.
    In the best-of-seven WHL final, the Raiders will face their biggest test to date in the Vancouver Giants.
    The Giants finished second overall in the WHL with a 48-15-3-2 record and were rated sixth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. The Giants took the Western Conference Championship series 4-1 over the Spokane Chiefs.
    The Raiders and Giants met just once in the regular season back on Jan. 24. The Giants posted a 3-1 victory in that encounter in Langley, B.C.
Brett Leason had a gutty assist for the Raiders on Sunday.
    Vancouver last played in the WHL Championship series in 2007, when they fell in a hotly contest seven game series to the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Giants hosted that year’s Memorial Cup tournament and downed the Tigers in the event’s title game 3-1.
    Vancouver won the WHL title in 2006 sweeping the Moose Jaw Warriors away in four games.
Game 1 of this year’s WHL Championship series is set for this coming Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
    The Raiders and their fans are looking forward to adding another chapter to their storybook season, but for now, they are savouring this moment in time. A conference title win doesn’t happen every day, and for the Raiders, they have only gotten to this point twice since they entered the WHL at the start of the 1982-83 campaign.
    It is a moment that should be enjoyed.

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