Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Raiders seen as “the boys” enjoying Habscheid’s 500th win

Marc Habscheid picked up his 500th career  win on Saturday.
    You had to love how the Prince Albert Raiders celebrated Marc Habscheid picking up his 500th head coaching victory in the WHL, because it was just fun.
    On Saturday, the Raiders traveled to Lethbridge to take on the Hurricanes in the third stop on a four game road trip. The two squads entered the third period locked in a 4-4 tie.
    The Hurricanes jumped ahead 5-4 on a goal from star centre Jake Leschyshyn at the 5:57 mark of the third period. The tally was the second of the game for Leschyshyn.
    Just 53 seconds later, Raiders 16-year-old rookie centre Ozzy Wiesblatt tied things up at 5-5 and star left-winger Cole Fonstad netted the winner giving Prince Albert a 6-5 victory with 6:37 remaining in the third period. The winner was Fonstad’s second marker of the contest.
    That will allowed Habscheid, who is the Raiders bench boss, to pick up his 500th career regular season victory as a WHL head coach. The Raiders, who are rated second in the CHL Top 10 rankings, improved their WHL leading record to 45-7-0-2 with their fourth win in a row.
    Following the game, Habscheid was given the top hat the Raiders usually give to their hardest working player and a game puck. An impromptu team picture was taken in the team’s dressing room, which the Raiders have share over various social media channels and their website. 
Ozzy Wiesblatt scored the equalizer for the Raiders.
    After everyone had cleaned up, it was off to a Lethbridge area Dairy Queen for ice cream.
    Habscheid touched base with Gregg Drinnan, who is “The Dean” when it comes to covering the circuit, following the game regarding the celebration.
    “I had a large chocolate sundae,” said Habscheid to Drinnan. “The boys got whatever they wanted. Best $180 I ever spent.”
    For those that were with the Raiders, that had to be one of the most fun nights of the year. The Raiders were slated to play next on Wednesday, when they traveled to Swift Current to face the Broncos (7 p.m. local time, Innovation Credit Union i-Plex).
    With having three off days between games, the Raiders had the chance to soak in and enjoy the accomplishment. That night at Dairy Queen, you can be sure a tonne of good-natured jokes were flying with the down time.
    Over the course of a long hockey season, it is those moments that the Raiders experienced on Saturday night that get remembered many years down the road. Those moments when you are together and having fun during down times are the points where teams can really bond.
    The Dairy Queen visit almost feels like those one impulse fun ideas someone comes up with and then it gets acted on.
    During my 20 seasons covering the WHL, I’ve seen guys on teams impulse going to Subway, jetting off to an electronics store to get a gadget for a bus trip, head out to a movie or venture to a thrift shop to pick up something to use as a Halloween costume.
    All those experiences help teammates bond that much closer together and play harder for each other. Also, the memories that are made are priceless.
    So it was good on the Raiders for making the Dairy Queen stop.
Cole Fonstad had the winning  goal for the Raiders.
    As far as the record breaking game went, Eric Pearce, Parker Kelly and Sean Montgomery had singles for the Raiders.
    Jake Elmer, Ty Prefontaine and Igor Merezhko replied with singles for the Hurricanes.
Boston Bilous made 29 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Raiders. Carl Tetachuk turned away 31 shots to take the setback in goal for the Hurricanes.
    Habscheid became just the eighth coach in the history of the WHL to reach 500 wins. He is closing on becoming just the eighth person to be the head coach for 1,000 regular season games. Habscheid has been behind the bench for 995 games as a head coach including time he spent with the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Chilliwack Bruins and Victoria Royals.
    Don Hay, who is now an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, holds the WHL all-time regular season coaching wins record at 750 in 1,364 games. Ken Hodge, who is a former Portland head coach, holds the all-time regular season games coached record at 1,411.
    On another side note, Fonstad was named the WHL player of the week on Monday after posting five goals, three assists and a plus-six rating in the plus-minus department as the Raiders won the first three games of their current four-game road trip.

Feel good dream season for Raiders’ “Monty”

Sean Montgomery has enjoyed a career year with the Raiders.
    The Prince Albert Raiders are having a dream season and one of cool feel good parts of that story is the fact overage centre Sean Montgomery gets to experience all of it.
    The Calgary, Alta, product has been a full-time member with the Raiders since his 16-year-old season in 2014-15. He is a heart and soul member of the team.
    During his time in Prince Albert, Montgomery has seen a lot of ups and downs with the team. The Raiders missed the playoffs in his first and third seasons.
    They made the post-season in his second campaign and last season. In last year’s playoffs, the Raiders fell to the Moose Jaw Warriors, who had the league’s best record in 2017-18, in a tough first round series 5-4 in a series deciding Game 7.
    Over that whole time, Montgomery, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 176 pounds, was the good soldier, who always represented the team well. He wasn’t the highest scorer recording 43 goals and 42 assists for 85 points in 278 regular season games heading into the current campaign. From those numbers, you wondered if he would stay on with the team or would management find a more prolific scoring overager.
    The Raiders stuck with their character guy, who had given lots to the organization. Montgomery, who is an assistant captain, has gone on to have a career year posting 22 goals, 28 assists for 50 points and a plus-39 rating in the plus-minus department appearing in all of the Raiders 54 regular season games. Those career highs have smashed the previous highs he posted in any other season.
Sean Montgomery holds the Raiders team record for career games played.
    The Raiders have had a dream season posting a 45-7-0-2 record and are rated second in the CHL’s Top 10 rankings.
    Montgomery has now appeared in 332 regular season games with the Raiders breaking the old club record of 330 games held by winger Brett Novak, who played for the Raiders from 2000 to 2006. 
    Novak was a member of the last Raiders team that appeared in the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series back in 2005, when they fell in a tough seven game series to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
    That journey through the playoffs is known as “The Run” in P.A.
    Montgomery and the current Raiders have already delivered some amazing memories to “Hockey Town North,” and you can bet they will do their best for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs to try and create more memories.

Blades trio on fire

Dawson Davidson has points in 13 straight games.
    The Saskatoon Blades have a trio that might be too hot to handle at the moment.
    Offensive defenceman Dawson Davidson, right-winger Max Gerlach and left-winger “Uncle” Gary Haden are all riding lengthy scoring streaks, where they are putting up some crazy numbers.
    Davidson has posted points in 13 straight games collecting two goals and 19 assists over that span of time. He leads the Blades in scoring appearing in all of the team’s 55 regular season games posting 10 goals, 51 assists for 61 points and a plus-19 rating in the plus-minus department.
    Gerlach has points in his last 11 straight games posting nine goals and 10 assists over his run. He has 33 goals, 26 assists for 59 points and a plus-one rating for the Blades this season.
    Haden has points in his last eight straight games posting 10 goals and seven assist over that stretch.
Max Gerlach has points in his last 11 straight games.
    He has 26 goals, 30 assists for 56 points and a plus-13 rating in 51 games split between the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Blades.
    That trio has helped the Blades win their last four straight games and collect points in their last 10 straight contests posting an 8-0-2 record over that stretch.
    The Blades return to action on Wednesday, when they travel to Medicine Hat to face the Tigers at 7 p.m. local time at the Canalta Centre, and Davidson, Gerlach and Haden will try and keep their streaks intact.
    Gerlach and Haden are also both former Tigers players and were dealt to the Blades in separate trades. Gerlach joined the Blades in January of 2018 and Haden came to Saskatoon in October of 2018. 

Positive vibes flow in Blades’ “Welcome the World” game

On Sunday, 42 people became Canadian citizens at the Blades game.
    The Saskatoon Blades always have a number of creative promotions for their games, but one of their best ones has to be their annual “Welcome the World” game.
    The Blades held their “Welcome the World” game on Sunday when they downed the Brandon Wheat Kings 6-3 at the SaskTel Centre. The game attracted 4,815 spectators, and a number of those were seeing their first live hockey game ever.
    As part of the “Welcome the World” game festivities, 42 people took their citizenship oath to become Canadian citizens during a pre-game ceremony.
    The concourse at the SaskTel Centre was a fun place as well. If you did a lap of the concourse, you saw dancers and performers representing a number of different cultural groups.
    Overall, the Blades “Welcome the World” game always has a great vibe. It also had a real inclusive feel, something special that makes it unique.
    Here is hoping the newcomers like what they saw, and the Blades will have a few new hockey fans coming out to the SaskTel Centre.

Beware of the Tigers

Ryan Jevne is having a career year with the Tigers.
    It looks the Medicine Hat Tigers have hit high gear to make a second half push.
    After finishing first in the WHL’s Central Division each of the past two seasons, the Tigers appeared set for a reloading phase. For anyone that has seen this team play since the start of the 2002-03 season, their reloads don’t take that long, and before you know it, the Tigers are skating with the best clubs in the league again.
    At the WHL’s Christmas break, the Tigers had a 17-15-1-2 record. Since returning to action after the WHL Christmas break, the Tigers had posted a 14-3-2 record to improve to 31-18-3-2 to sit second in the Central Division one point behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (30-16-4-4).
    The Tigers have made the playoffs in 15 of the last 16 years, and they lost out in a standings tiebreaking game in failing to make the post-season in 2016.
Captain James Hamblin leads the Tigers in scoring.
    They always find speedy and skilled players that fit their transition style game where they get up and down the ice quickly with crisp breakouts and passing. The defenceman are good at protecting their own end and making the first pass up ice allowing the Tigers to explode into action.
    One of their breakout players has been rookie netminder Mads Sogaard, who is an import player for Denmark. The 18-year-old puck stopper, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 190 pounds, has posted a 15-4-4 record, a 2.19 goals against average, a .935 save percentage and three shutouts. His save percentage tops the WHL.
    On Monday, Sogaard was named the WHL’s goaltender of the week. In his three appearances in the preceding week, Sogaard posted three wins, a 1.30 goals against average and stopped 96-of-100 shots for a .960 save percentage. On Tuesday, Sogaard took home CHL goaltender of the week honours.
    Captain James Hamblin leads the Tigers in scoring with 30 goals and 34 assists for 64 points and he has a plus-26 rating in the plus-minus department. Overage left-winger Ryan Jevne sits second in team scoring posting career highs in goals (25), assists (28) and points (53).
Mads Sogaard has had a breakout rookie season for the Tigers.
    Overage defenceman Linus Nassen, who is an import from Sweden, has played well both ways in the back end. He leads all Tigers blue-liners in scoring with five goals and 35 assists for 40 points to go along with his plus-11 rating.
    Of course, the WHL’s Central Division has been highly competitive this season, but the Tigers can be their most dangerous, when no one is looking their way. It would not be a surprise to see them continue on their upswing and make noise in the post-season.
    They host the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday at 7 p.m. local time at the Canalta Centre.

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