|The Raiders aim to win their first WHL title since 1985.|
On Friday at 7 p.m. local time at the Art Hauser Centre, the host Prince Albert Raiders will take on the visiting Vancouver Giants in Game 1 of the best-of-seven WHL Championship series.
The Raiders finished first overall in the WHL regular season standings at 54-10-2-2 and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. Prince Albert advanced through the post-season capturing the WHL Eastern Conference title winning 12 out of their 16 playoff games.
The Giants placed second overall in the WHL regular season standings with a 48-15-3-2 record and are rated sixth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. Vancouver moved through the playoffs capturing the WHL Western Conference title winning 12 out of their 15 post-season games.
When the season started, both clubs has the potential to have successful campaigns. The fact their records were as good as they were and both made long playoff runs still comes as a bit of a surprise.
|Brett Leason has been a star all season for the Raiders.|
The Raiders last won the WHL title and the Memorial Cup in 1985. Since that time, they advanced to the league semifinal round seven times without earning a berth in the league final.
After falling in the WHL Eastern Conference final in seven games in 2005, the Raiders went through a stretch over the next 13 years where they missed the playoffs seven times and were eliminated in the first round six times.
The Giants topped the B.C. Division for five consecutive seasons from 2005-06 to 2009-10. They won the WHL title in 2006.
They lost in the WHL final in seven games in 2007 but rebounded to capture the Memorial Cup as the tournament’s host team. Vancouver made appearances in the WHL Western Conference final in 2009 and 2010 but wasn’t able to make the league final.
From 2011 to 2018, the Giants missed the playoffs four times and were eliminated in the first round four times.
|Dylan Plouffe is a solid defenceman for the Giants|
By making it to this year’s WHL final, the 2018-19 campaign is an unequivocal success for both the Raiders and Giants. After getting this far, you can bet both sides don’t want to fall short of winning a league title and advancing to the Memorial Cup, which runs May 17 to 26 in Halifax, N.S.
The Raiders are lead by general manager Curtis Hunt, who is the WHL’s executive of the year, and head coach Marc Habscheid, who is the WHL’s coach of the year. The two hockey veterans have worked together since the start of the 2015-16 campaign to bring the Raiders to this moment.
They oversee a team that is loaded with star forwards in Brett Leason, Noah Gregor, Parker Kelly, Cole Fonstad, Sean Montgomery and Dante Hannoun.
|Bowen Byram is the Giants biggest star.|
Veteran Ian Scott, who was named the WHL’s goaltender of the year, had a marvelous season and has been clutch in the playoffs.
Before the start of the 2018-19 season, Barclay Parneta became the Giants new general manager and Michael Dyck became the team’s new head coach. Both are long time hockey veterans who were looking to get the Giants over the hump.
Dyck has been the head coach of his hometown Lethbridge Hurricanes but parted ways with that club at the end of the 2008-09 campaign. He spent the majority of the time between WHL head coach positions guiding various minor hockey teams his son, Carson, played on.
Together, Parneta and Dyck, who is the coach of the year in the WHL’s Western Conference, brought the Giants back to prominence.
They oversaw a talented forward group in captain Jared Dmytriw, Davis Koch, Milos Roman, Lukas Svejkovsky, Tristen Nielsen and Justin Sourdif. Dmytriw was the humanitarian of the year for the Western Conference.
The star on defence is 17-year-old Bowen Byram, and he is a hot prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft earning the number two rating among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings.
|Raiders goalie Ian Scott will be out to stone the Giants.|
In goal, the Giants rest easy knowing they have two great options in David Tendeck and Trent Miner, who both had solid seasons.
The Raiders and Giants met once in the regular season back on Jan. 24 , when the Giants pulled out a 3-1 victory at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C.
Due to the fact these teams played just once in the regular season and both has spectacular campaigns, it is hard to pick with any degree of confidence who will come out on top.
The fact the Raiders are backed by a raucous home crowd should help give them an advantage.
Still, this series appears it will be an exciting one for hockey fans, so may the best team win.
Raiders select Crocker in WHL Bantam Draft
While they might be in the WHL final, the Prince Albert Raiders hockey operations department took a step to stock the team for the future making 12 selections in the WHL Bantam Draft held Thursday in Red Deer, Alta.
With their first pick, the Raiders took forward Niall Crocker from Delta, B.C., in the first round and 22nd overall. Crocker, who is 14-years-old, 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.
The Raiders paid tribute to their late director of player personnel Ron Gunville, while making their first pick. Gunville passed away due to cancer last Dec. 11.
Gunville’s son, Reed, and nephew, Keanan Tibbs, stepped up to the podium with current Raiders director of player personnel Curt Brownlee to make the selection. Brownlee allowed Reed to make the selection.
The Raiders selected six forwards, four defencemen and two goaltenders in the Bantam Draft. The list of the Raiders selections can be found by clicking right here.
Blades trade Harsch, pick Lisowsky
|The Blades traded Reece Harsch to the Winnipeg Ice.|
The Blades traded overage defenceman Reece Harsch and first round and third overall pick in the Bantam Draft to the Winnipeg Ice. The Ice sent the Blades their first round and ninth overall selection and second and 24th overall pick in this year’s Bantam Draft and a second round pick and a fifth round pick in the 2020 Bantam Draft.
Last season, Harsch appeared in 57 regular season games split between the Seattle Thunderbirds and Blades posting four goals, 16 assists and a minus-10 rating in the plus-minus department.
With the first round and ninth overall selection, the Blades selected forward Brandon Lisowsky, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 160 pounds, from Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Lisowsky, who turned 15-years-old in April, collected 61 goals and 48 assists for 109 points in 53 regular season and tournament games with the Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Prep team last season.
In the second round with the 24th overall pick, the Blades selected 14-year-old forward Hayden Smith from Chetwynd, B.C.
Smith, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 152 pounds, collected 24 goals and 23 assists in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy Bantam Prep team in Abbotsford, B.C.
The Blades selected six forwards, five defencemen and two goaltenders in the Bantam Draft. Saskatoon’s selections can be found by clicking right here.
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