The road to the Ed Chynoweth Cup will run through Prince Albert.
Thanks to a 6-0 victory over the Swift Current Broncos at the Art Hauser Centre Tuesday night, the Prince Albert Raiders secured home ice for the entire 2019 Western Hockey League playoffs and also captured the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular season champions for the first time since their run to the Memorial Cup title in the 1984-85 campaign.
“I can speak for all of the veterans and everyone else in the dressing room by saying that we’ve been through it all here,” Raiders forward Parker Kelly said. “We’ve had seasons where we’ve missed the playoffs and seasons where just got into the post-season, but this takes the cake.
“It’s a special night for the team but we’re all focused on bigger and better things, and we’ll continue to work on that at practice tomorrow.”
Only two members of the Raiders roster know what it’s like to have home ice advantage through the playoffs.
Dante Hannoun and Brayden Pachal were members of the regular season champion Victoria Royals in the 2015-16 season, though their quest for a WHL title ended in the quarter-finals with a seven-game loss to the Kelowna Rockets.
“It’s obviously a special feeling when you can clinch the Scotty Munro Trophy, but the hard work starts now and we’re going to be focusing on playing the right way here before the playoffs,” Hannoun said.
“It’s a completely different game when you get to the post-season and the biggest keys are going to be focusing on the little details and playing as a group, which are things that we’ve been doing already.”
Tuesday’s win was an impressive showing from top to bottom by the Raiders, as they improved their record to 51-9-2-2.
“Everyone’s buying in to the systems at the moment,” said Hannoun, who led the way on offence with a goal and two assists.
“We were cycling the puck around and getting bodies to the net whenever we were in their end tonight, which I think was probably the difference in the game.”
Justin Nachbaur scored twice for the hosts, while Pachal had a two-assist evening.
Aliaksei Protas had a goal and an assist for the Raiders, who also got offensive contributions from Sergei Sapego and Eric Pierce.
Ian Scott turned aside 24 shots for his sixth shutout of the campaign, which moved him into a tie for the Raiders single-season record with Rejean Beauchemin (2003-04) and Luke Siemens (2012-13).
“I’m sure Ian would be the first to say this, but the help that he gets in front of the net is a big part in helping him to tie that record,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.
“They’ve been doing a great job locking things down in their end here as of late. We have may allowed a few too many shots at times tonight, but ‘Scotty’ was there to make the saves when we needed him to.”
Riley Lamb was busy at the other end of the ice as he made 39 saves for the 10-45-4-2 Broncos, who have lost 15 straight games.
The two sides will square off again at the Art Hauser Centre Friday at 7 p.m. and will conclude their three games in six days series on Sunday afternoon in Swift Current.
Following those contests, the Raiders will wrap the regular season with a home-and-home series with the Saskatoon Blades next weekend.
“Without a doubt our biggest focus right now is to make sure that we don’t get into any bad habits here in the next week, but that can be difficult at times,” Habscheid said. “Even though we didn’t clinch the regular season title officially until tonight, we’ve known for awhile that it was a possibility.
“The guys have done a good job so far of playing the way that you should come playoff time. There are some lapses when the game is in hand, but that’s human nature. We have some smart guys and great leadership in the dressing room, so they understand what needs to be done.”
When the post-season gets underway, the Raiders will look to become the first team since the 2012-13 Portland Winterhawks to the win the regular season and playoff titles in the WHL.
Of the previous five Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy champions, only the 2014-15 Brandon Wheat Kings and the 2016-17 Regina Pats made it to the league final.
Parker Kelly and Max Martin both had an assist in their returns to the Raiders lineup, as Kelly missed the last three games due to a suspension and Martin had been sidelined with an injury for the last six games.
Loeden Schaufler was the lone scratch for the home side Tuesday, while forward prospect Evan Herman was sent back to the Rink Hockey Academy after being with the Raiders for the last week.
Blueliners Alex Moar and Devin Aubin did not dress for the Broncos, along with forwards Owen Blocker and Kye Buchanan.
- Saskatoon 4 Moose Jaw 2 (Brandon Schuldhaus – Two Goals)
- Brandon 7 Kootenay 0 (Luke Burzan – Two Goals and One Assist – Jiri Patera – 29 Saves – First Career Shutout – Brandon moves into a tie with Red Deer for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference)
- Everett 3 Spokane 1 (Bryce Kindopp – Two Assists)
- Saskatoon 1 Red Deer 0 (Nolan Maier – 17 Saves – Fourth Shutout This Season and Sixth Career – Ethan Anders – 32 Saves)
- Calgary 6 Kootenay 2 (Carson Focht – Three Goals – Second Hat Trick This Season)
- Vancouver 5 Kamloops 4 (Bowen Byram Overtime Winner – Milos Roman – Two Goals and Two Assists)
- Kelowna 4 Portland 3 (Roman Basran – 27 Saves – Portland’s loss gives Everett their third straight U.S. Division title)
- Seattle 6 Tri-City 3 (Matthew Wedman – Two Goals and One Assist)
Around the WHL
Two players have signed National Hockey League entry-level contracts in the last few days, as Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Nick Henry inked a deal with the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and Everett Silvertips captain Connor Dewar came to terms with the Minnesota Wild Tuesday.
Henry, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Avalanche, has 87 points in 64 games this year with the Regina Pats and the Hurricanes and is third in assists in the WHL with 61.
Dewar, who was selected in third round by the Wild last June, has a career high 76 points in 55 games for the Silvertips to lead the team in scoring.
- Brandon vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
- Calgary vs. Medicine Hat – 8 p.m.
- Vancouver vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
- Victoria vs. Tri-City – 9 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
- Medicine Hat vs. Lethbridge – 8 p.m.
- Brandon vs. Red Deer – 8 p.m.
- Edmonton vs. Calgary – 8 p.m.
- Kelowna vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
- Portland vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
- Vancouver vs. Spokane – 9 p.m.
- Everett vs. Tri-City – 9 p.m.
- Victoria vs. Seattle – 9:30 p.m.