Raiders overwhelm Tigers to open four-game road trip

The rich keep getting richer in the WHL’s East Division.

The Prince Albert Raiders got goals from Max Martin, Spencer Moe, Parker Kelly and Brett Leason on route to a 5-1 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers at the Canalta Centre. Head coach Marc Habscheid said his team played a solid all-around game on Wednesday, kicking the Raider road trip off on a winning note, and giving them six straight wins to open the season.

“Medicine Hat’s a good team. They got two really good defenceman back from the NHL (Linus Nassen and Dylan MacPherson) and they were in the lineup, but I liked our game,” Habscheid said afterwards. “I thought we were fairly dominant the whole game. I thought our pace was really good. I thought everybody had a good game.”

It didn’t take long for the Raiders to break through the Tiger defensive wall. Spencer Moe converted a slick feed from Max Martin on a 2-on-1 to make it 1-0 just minutes into the opening period. Martin was back at it again seven minutes later, one-timing a rocket past Tiger netminder Jordan Hollett to make it 2-0.

The Raider defenceman added another in the second with a quick wrist shot on the power play, giving Prince Albert more than enough offence to skate away with the victory.

“Max is a good player,” Habscheid said. “He’s an offensive guy and had two real nice shots around the net.”

Martin’s second goal marked an important milestone for the newest Prince Albert Raider, Noah Gregor. After tallying 205 points over the last four WHL seasons, Gregor notched his first assist as a Raider on Martin’s second of the night.

Gregor added another assist minutes later when he fed a beautiful cross-ice pass to Parker Kelly, who hammered home his fourth of the season.

“Obviously you can see he’s a pretty good player,” Habscheid said. “He’ll fit into our lineup nice. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s got some good skill and now we’re able to pretty much roll four lines. It’s tough for other teams because who do they match up with?”

Brett Leason made it five nothing six minutes into the third period when he banged in a rebound off a Brayden Pachal shot, but the Tigers responded just 15 seconds later. Elijah Brown beat Ian Scott with a low shot on the stick side to make it 5-1, but that was as close as they ever got.

The win gives Prince Albert a WHL leading record of 6-0-0 while the Tigers fall to 1-4-0. The Raiders continue their road trip on Friday, when they travel to Lethbridge to take on the Hurricanes. The two teams currently sit fourth and third respectively in the CHL’s top 10 rankings. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

The Raiders have given fans plenty of reasons to cheer early in the 2018-19 season, and Habscheid is confident those early successes won’t go to their heads.

“We’ve got a good bunch of guys and they’re confident, but they’re not arrogant,” Habscheid said. “We don’t want to be a bunch of arrogant guys and we don’t have to worry about that because we’ve got good guys. We want them to have some good swagger and confidence but we don’t want the arrogance and if you keep that mentality then you’ll always strive to improve and get better and don’t take anything for granted.”

Post-Game Notes

With a 6-0 record to open the season, the Raiders are nearing the 7-0-0-1 starts they had in the 2012-13 and 2002-03 campaign.

The team is hoping for a better showing than how those years ended up, as they missed the playoffs in 2003 and were swept in the first round by the Red Deer Rebels a decade later.

Forward Jakob Brook was not in the lineup Wednesday following an injury he sustained Sunday against the Saskatoon Blades.

Blueliners Lane Kirk and Konrad Belcourt were also scratches for the Raiders.

Forwards Baxter Anderson, Corson Hopwo and Jaxon Steele did not dress for the Tigers, along with defencemen Joel Craven and Dalton Gally.

Rockets to Host 2020 Memorial Cup

For the second time in franchise history, the Kelowna Rockets will have home ice advantage at the Memorial Cup.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Hockey League announced that the Rockets would serve as the hosts for the tournament in two years time as they topped bids from the Kamloops Blazers and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

In 2004, a Rockets team that featured current Raiders coaches Marc Habscheid and Jeff Truitt on the bench won their only national title on home ice.

The Rockets have made four other trips as league champions, with their last two visits seeing them lose in the title game to the Windsor Spitfires and Oshawa Generals in 2009 and 2015.

The CHL also announced Wednesday that Kia Canada will replace MasterCard as the presenting sponsor of the Memorial Cup, staring with next year’s tournament in Halifax.

Wednesday’s Scores

  • Saskatoon 5 Edmonton 3 (Kirby Dach – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Portland 7 Kamloops 3 (Cody Glass – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Vancouver 5 Kelowna 0 (James Malm – Three Goals and Trent Miner – 21 Saves for First WHL Shutout)

Pre-Game Notes

The Hurricanes have started off the campaign with a 2-2 record and are looking to bounce back from an 8-4  road loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings last Saturday night that saw Luka Burzan score five goals.

After losing all four meetings in the 2016-17 season and their first matchup of the 2017-18 campaign, the Raiders won the remaining three contests against the Hurricanes last year.

Defenceman Tyler Lowe, who played one game with the Raiders last year before being sent down to the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats, is out of the Hurricanes lineup for the next month with a lower body injury.

The team will also be without the services of overage defender Igor Merezhko, as the Ukraine product is serving the final game of a two-game suspension for a checking from behind major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit on Regina Pats forward Austin Pratt last Friday.

Friday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Regina vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Calgary – 7 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Kootenay – 7 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Kamloops – 8 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Spokane – 8 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Everett – 8:30 p.m.

–With files from Lucas Punkari

Thierman Financial