After a three-point showing in the Prince Albert Raiders’ Green and White game Monday and signing a standard player agreement with the team Tuesday, defenceman Landon Kosior had his welcome to the Western Hockey League moment Wednesday night at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It was definitely a little surreal to go out there for my first shift,” Kosior said following a 4-2 pre-season triumph over the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“The speed of the game is something that I’m getting used to and there’s a little more hitting out here than there is in Midget AAA, but I was able to get my feet underneath me and had a good game.”
The 18-year-old Regina product, who had an assist during Wednesday’s contest, is coming off a two-season stint in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with the Tisdale Trojans.
He led the league in scoring by a blueliner last year with 52 points in 44 games, was named the Adam Herold Memorial Award winner as the top defensive defenceman in the SMAAAHL and helped the Trojans earn a bronze medal at the Telus Cup national midget championship in Thunder Bay, Ont.
“I can’t say enough good things about my time in Tisdale,” Kosior said. “The Trojans program is one of the best out there and my coach Darrell Mann really helped me out a lot.
“Everyone on the team believed in each other last year and that gave me a lot of confidence when I went out on the ice. I picked up my speed quite a lot from my rookie year and I was able to make plays a lot more quickly than I had in the past.”
Although he had been listed by the Raiders in the fall of 2017 and had attended the team’s training camp last season, Kosior had another option to choose from for the next step in his hockey career.
He was selected in the 10th round of the United States Hockey League’s Futures Draft by the Omaha Lancers in 2018 and had rights dealt to the Chicago Steel earlier this summer.
“It was definitely a tough decision, but once I got to Prince Albert and saw what the Raiders had to offer, it was a no brainer to come here,” Kosior said.
“They have a great history of developing players and obviously they won the league last year, which always sticks out quite a bit. There’s a bright future here and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Kosior’s previous experience at the Raiders’ camp also helped when it came to his off-season training as he looks to make an impact in his first WHL campaign.
“Obviously you want to be as fast as you can out there but I also spent some time putting on some more muscle in the gym so that I can play against the bigger bodies in this league,” Kosior said.
“When it comes to this season, the main goal is to of course win a championship, but right now I’m just focusing on making sure that I’m making quick plays and communicating well with my teammates.”
Wednesday’s pre-season opener for the Raiders ended up being a lot closer than the 4-2 score indicated as the Warriors closed a 3-0 gap with a pair of goals from Eric Alarie and Tate Popple in a nine-second span late in the third period.
The visitors had a chance to tie up the game with a power play in the final minutes, but Evan Herman stopped the comeback bid with an empty-net shorthanded goal with 75 seconds to go as Warriors goaltender Jackson Berry got caught in no-man’s land and couldn’t dive across the ice in time to stop the puck from going in.
Herman had a pair of goals to pace the Raiders offence, while Braydon Clark and Ozzy Wiesblatt also scored during a two minutes and 22 seconds span during the third period.
Boston Bilous made 29 saves for the hosts, while Berry turned aside 26 shots for the Warriors.
The Raiders will be back in action Friday as they’ll travel to Warman to face the Saskatoon Blades at 7 p.m.
Although it’s the pre-season, Eric Alarie is making an excellent first impression with the Warriors as the 22nd overall pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft has four goals and four assists in four exhibition contests.
That’s the most points a Warriors player has put up in the pre-season since forward Nikita Popugaev had nine points in five games in 2016.
The Raiders did not dress defencemen Nolan Allan, Zack Hayes, Brayden Pachal and Max Martin on Wednesday, in addition to forwards Jakob Brook, Cohner Saleski, Aliaksei Protas, and Cole Fonstad.
The Warriors scratched goaltenders Kyle Kesley and Adam Evanoff, defencemen Braden Miller, Cory King and Alek Sukunda, along with forwards Cameron Sterling, Luke Ormsby, Kaeden Taphorn, Jesse Mistelbacher, Peyton McKenzie and Brayden Tracey.
Wednesday’s Pre-Season Scores
- Swift Current 4 Medicine Hat 2 (Garin Bjorklund – 36 Saves)
Thursday’s Pre-Season Schedule
- Regina vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
- Portland vs. Tri-City – 8 p.m.
Friday’s Pre-Season Schedule
- Portland vs. Spokane – 4 p.m. (in Kennewick, Wash.)
- Prince George vs. Kamloops – 5 p.m. (in Langley, B.C.)
- Kootenay vs. Brandon – 6:30 p.m.
- Calgary vs. Edmonton – 7 p.m.
- Lethbridge vs. Red Deer – 7 p.m.
- Prince Albert vs Saskatoon – 7 p.m. (in Warman)
- Seattle vs. Tri-City – 8 p.m.
- Victoria vs. Vancouver – 8:30 p.m.