It was a month ago when Keaton Sorensen found out that he was being dealt from his hometown Red Deer Rebels to the Prince Albert Raiders.
While a change of scenery is something that might take some time for a junior hockey player to get used to, the move to Saskatchewan was one that the 19-year-old forward was eager to take on.
“Don’t get me wrong, my time in Red Deer was awesome, but it’s sometimes a good thing to get a change of scenery and join a new team,” Sorensen said.
“Everybody’s been really welcoming so far and it’s felt like I’ve been in Prince Albert forever. I’ve become friends with the guys here really quickly and it’s been an awesome experience.”
Sorensen isn’t a stranger to the province as he spent three years playing with the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, which included being a part of the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship team and leading the league in scoring that season with 33 goals in 42 games.
“Having been there for a few years, I guess you can say I know the flatlands a little bit,” joked Sorensen, who had 16 points in 76 games in a Rebels uniform over the last two years.
“I look at myself as a playmaker, but I like to do my job in the defensive zone. The offensive zone is the extra part where you get rewarded if you do things right.”
Sorensen has proven to be one of the most impactful performers for the Raiders since the start of training camp and he carried that performance into the team’s pre-season opener on Friday night, as he had two assists in an 8-6 triumph over the Regina Pats.
“I thought it was a good game overall for us as we got used to playing at normal game speed again,” Sorensen said. “It was awesome to have fans in the building as well instead of playing in front of an empty building like we did last year.
While the Raiders still have three more exhibition contests before the regular season begins against the Pats on Oct. 1, Sorensen likes the direction that team is heading in.
“Everybody has bought in really quickly,” Sorensen said. “Everybody has come together and they want to win. The teams that do that the quickest are the ones that have success.”
Friday’s contest, which was the first WHL game of any kind at the Art Hauser Centre since a regular season matchup between the Raiders and the Brandon Wheat Kings on March 6, 2020, was a wild affair with both teams trading goals throughout the night and dressing younger lineups as many veteran players are attending NHL training camps.
“We told the new guys before the game that they are playing the same sport that they have been playing since they were young,” Sorensen said.
“We also told them that you just have to go out there and do what you do best. You’re here for a reason and you just have to play like you have been during practice all week, which I think they were able to do all night.”
Evan Herman and Cale Sanders both scored twice for the Raiders in their pre-season opener, while Tyson Laventure dished out three helpers.
Eric Pearce, Michael Horon and Dallyn Peekeekoot each had a goal and an assist in the triumph, which saw Adam McNutt light the lamp and Max Hildebrand stop 21 shots.
Pats forward Connor Bedard showed why he’s one of the most hyped players in all of junior hockey on Friday as he sniped home a pair of goals and earn an assist in a losing effort.
“I think for all of us that was a good taste of what WHL hockey is going to be like, especially for us younger guys that have only played a few games in the league,” Bedard said.
“Prince Albert plays a fast and aggressive game and we fought back well, but this was a good learning experience for us tonight and we all know that we have to play better.”
Cole Dubinsky had a two-assist night for the visitors, who also got goals from Tom Cadieux, Cole Carrier, Borya Valis and Prince Albert product Tanner Howe.
Mintos alumni Spencer Welke suited up between the pipes for the Pats and turned aside 25 shots.
The two sides will square off again on Saturday in a 7 p.m. affair at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
The Raiders will return to the Art Hauser Centre next Friday for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Saskatoon Blades, before concluding the pre-season the following night with a 7 p.m. matchup with their archrivals at the Legends Centre in Warman.
While the Raiders were starting their exhibition slate on Friday, the Pats were taking part in the third pre-season matchup as they had split a home-and-home set with the Winnipeg Ice last weekend.
Special teams played a big role in the contest as each side scored a pair of power-play makers and combined for three shorthanded goals during the first period.
Tikhon Chayka, Carter Serhyenko, Nolan Allan, Kaiden Guhle, Landon Kosior, Reece Vitelli, Ozzy Wiesblatt and Uladzislau Shyla did not dress for the Raiders, while the Pats were without the services of Luke Bateman, Stanislav Svozil, Jake Johnson, Ryker Evans, Zack Stringer, Colby Wotton, Zane Rowan, Logan Nijhoff, Drew Englot and Matteo Michels.
Tuesday, Sept. 13
- Moose Jaw 3 Brandon 1 (Denton Mateychuk – Two Assists)
Friday, Sept. 17
- Portland 3 Spokane 0 (Dante Giannuzzi and Lochlan Gordon – Combined 23-Save Shutout – Kurtis Smythe – Two Assists – Game Played in Kennewick, Wash.)
- Lethbridge 3 Medicine Hat 2 (Nolan Bentham – Two Assists)
- Red Deer 3 Calgary 0 (Chase Coward – 34 Saves – Kai Uchacz – Two Goals)
- Saskatoon 4 Edmonton 3 (Brendan Lee – One Goal and One Assist)
- Moose Jaw 6 Swift Current 1 (Nathan Pilling – Two Goals)
- Kamloops 5 Prince George 3 (Dylan Sydor – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Everett 1 Tri-City 0 (Dylan Anderson Overtime Winner – Koen MacIness – 30 Saves – Second Shutout of the Pre-Season)
- Kelowna 7 Victoria 3 (Max Graham – One Goal and Two Assists)
Saturday, Sept. 18
- Everett vs. Seattle – 3 p.m. (in Kennewick, Wash.)
- Edmonton vs. Saskatoon – 4 p.m.
- Red Deer vs. Calgary – 7 p.m. (in Siksika, Alta.)
- Lethbridge vs. Medicine Hat – 7 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
- Prince Albert vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
- Portland vs. Tri-City – 7 p.m.
- Kamloops vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
- Victoria vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.