Latest articles from Lucas Punkari

Raiders ready for opening night


A childhood dream is about to become reality for Prince Albert Raiders forward Ethan Ironside.

After signing a contract with his hometown team on Sept. 15, the 18-year-old is now gearing up for his first season in the Western Hockey League, which will get underway this weekend as the Raiders take on the Regina Pats in a home-and-home series to kick off the 2021-22 campaign.

“The excitement level is definitely going to be up there for my first regular season game,” Ironside said.

“I’m sure I’ll be just jittering and shaking, but I’ll be ready to giver.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Raiders overage blueliner Remy Aquilon, who is set to start his fourth and final season in the WHL.

“I think the biggest thing that we’ve been telling our young guys is to make sure that they stay level-headed out there,” Aquilon said. “They got a taste of things and adapted really well in the pre-season, but it’s totally different once you get to the regular season, especially compared to the other leagues they’ve played in.

“We’re just reminding them that if they keep a level-head and do their role, they will do great.”

Of the players that were on the Raiders roster as of Thursday morning, seven have yet to play in a WHL regular season contest.

That group includes forwards Hayden Pakkala, Zachary Wilson, Bryce Warkentine, Vladislav Shilo, Harrison Lodewyk and Ironside, along with netminder Tikhon Chaika.   

“The veterans have given us a lot of advice of what to look forward to,” Ironside said. “They’ve made everyone that’s new to the team feel comfortable and they’ve done an amazing job of making us feel at home.”

“Our group has really come a long way since the start of training camp and our younger guys have done a great job,” Aquilon said. “As an older guy, it’s nice to know that we can lean on them and be able to believe and trust them already.”

Meanwhile, forwards Niall Crocker and Dallyn Peekeekoot have yet to play a regular season game in front of fans after making their debuts in the East Division hub last year in Regina, with blueliners Adam McNutt, Tayem Gislason, Tre Fouquette and Terrell Goldsmith also falling into that category.

“The hub was exhibition games, but it’s different obviously compared to this year as we have fans back in the building,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“You get that extra energy from the crowd and that environment is new to a lot of guys on our team, especially those that were in the bubble. They are getting more experience with that every day though and they are getting more used to it.”

The opening weekend of the season will also be a frantic one for the Raiders.

After hosting the Pats in a 7 p.m. contest at the Art Hauser Centre, the two teams will then play again on Saturday in a 1 p.m. matchup at the Brandt Centre, which will also be broadcast nationally on CBC.

“I will be a tough couple of games and good testing point for us as we jump right back into it,” Aquilon said.

“We played Regina twice in the pre-season and there are things we can take from those games, but it’s totally different when you get to the regular season. There’s going to be a lot more fans in the stands and more attention on us, especially with Saturday’s game being on television.”

Pre-Game Notes

The Raiders made a pair of roster moves on Wednesday as they reassigned goaltender Max Hildebrand to SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers and forward Alex Mack to the South Side Athletic Club Under-18 program.

Hildebrand started three of the team’s four pre-season contests, while Mack played in all four games after signing a contract with the club on Sept. 15.

As of Thursday morning, forwards Reece Vitelli (Arizona Coyotes) and Ozzy Wiesblatt (San Jose Sharks) were still at National Hockey League training camps, along with blueliners Nolan Allan (Chicago Blackhawks) and Kaiden Guhle (Montreal Canadiens)

Forward Tyson Laventure is currently out indefinitely for the Raiders after sustaining an upper body injury against the Pats on Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, Regina is without the services of goaltender Keagan Maddocks, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury, and blueliner Marcus Taylor, who is day-to-day with a lower-body-ailment

Defencemen Ryker Evans and Stanislav Svozil were also away from the Pats as of Thursday morning as they take part in training camps with the Seattle Kraken and the Columbus Blue Jackets respectively.

The Pats and Raiders split their season last year with two wins each, which marked the first time that happened since the 2014-15 campaign, when each side won four contests.

Evans led Regina in scoring during the matchup with six points in four games, while Laventure paced Prince Albert offensively with seven points in four games.

Opening Night Info

Friday’s game at the Art Hauser Centre will mark the first time that mandatory masking as well as vaccination verification or a verified negative test will be needed to enter the building.

Thorough guidance and facilitation with health experts from the Ministry of Health, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and eHealth Saskatchewan, alongside the City of Prince Albert and the staff of the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders have finalized the details of the vaccination verification program earlier this week.

  • Fans age 12 and over must be able to verify they have received two doses of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines (or a mixture of two) or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson to be permitted to enter the Art Hauser Centre.
  • The COVID-19 Vaccination Record available through eHealth Saskatchewan’s individual MySaskHealthRecord account is the preferred vaccination record for entry and will provide the smoothest verification process on game day. The Raiders recommend having the QR code displayed, a digital copy or screen capture on a smartphone ready for game day. 
  • Fans 18 and older will be required to present photo ID matching the name on the vaccination record. Fans aged 12-17 will be required to show their vaccine record, but not photo ID.
  • Fans under the age of 12 are exempt from the policy but must be accompanied by an adult to enter the arena.
  • Other documents such as the immunization wallet card received at the time of vaccination, COVID immunization records from public health, Armed Forces records or out of province/out of country proof of vaccination will also be accepted.
  • Stick it to Covid vaccine stickers will not be accepted as proof of vaccination.  

Prairie Industrial Health Services will be set up outside the Art Hauser Centre and fans can be tested on the spot and if a negative test is established, will be permitted into the Art Hauser Centre.  Costs for the test will be $25 per test. 

The Raiders have also announced that they will not be retaining or storing any medical information or proof of vaccination from its ticket holders, and that fans must be able to present the information stated above at each Raiders home game.

The team also announced that Canadian country music artist Aaron Pritchett will be at the season opener, as he will be performing the national anthem and playing in the Ches Leach Lounge following the game.

Around The WHL

The Saskatoon Blades and the Kelowna Rockets hooked up for a big trade on Tuesday afternoon as Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Colton Dach was dealt for fellow 18-year-old forward Trevor Wong.

Dach, who was a second round selection by the Blackhawks in July, had 49 points in 82 games for a Blades side that picked him sixth overall in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.

“Colton is going to bring some things to our team that are going to be important to us,” Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton said in a prepared statement. “I think he’s going to mature a lot as a player here now that he has an NHL training camp under his belt. We’re going to expect him to come in here and have a leadership role with our group in the near future.

“When you make a deal of this size, battleship for battleship, we’re certainly giving up a young player that we’ve thought an awful lot of. Trevor was our first-round pick a few years ago and a real special person, but I think with where our team is, I thought that size was going to be an issue when we play big physical teams. I wanted to get something done earlier rather than later.”

Wong, who was the 18th overall pick by the Rockets in 2018, put up 31 points in 78 games during his time in Kelowna and recently attended the Florida Panthers training camp.

“I owed it to our talented, committed group of core players to make the right deal to improve our team,” Blades president and general manager Colin Priestner said in a prepared statement. “Trevor was one of the most dynamic bantam players I have scouted in my nine years with the Blades. He’s someone that you normally would never be able to acquire in a trade because he’s so talented and so well-regarded around the league, but this trade appears to be a good fit for both sides.

“This was not an easy trade to make. Colton was a first round pick of ours and we were looking forward to seeing him continue to develop, however the day after the NHL draft, Colton’s representative requested a trade. We remained patient in our discussions on Colton’s future, and were not going to agree on a trade until we received an equal or better player of the same age coming back to our club. Trevor is certainly that level of player.”

The Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants were involved in a trade of their own on Wednesday evening as the Blazers acquired 19-year-old Slovakian blueliner Marko Stacha for a fifth round pick in the 2023 WHL Draft.

“Marko is a solid two-way defenseman with experience in our league,” Blazers general manager and head coach Shaun Clouston said in a prepared statement.

“We were able to watch him lots last season and really liked his game. With an open import spot, we thought this was a great opportunity to improve our team.”

Stacha, who had six points in 21 games last year, was the odd man out on the import front with the Giants, as Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Jesper Vikman and Boston Bruins prospect Fabian Lysell set to join the team.

Meanwhile, Blazers forward Logan Stanokven and Giants forward Zack Ostapchuk signed entry-level contracts with the Dallas Stars and the Ottawa Senators this week.

Stankoven, who was projected by many to be a first round pick at the 2021 NHL Draft before falling to the Stars at pick 47, has 59 points in 72 regular season games for the Blazers and recorded eight points in seven contests for Canada’s gold medal winning side at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18’s.

Ostapchuk, who was the 39th overall selection by the Senators in July, has 24 points in 72 games for the Giants and made his NHL pre-season debut on Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Friday’s Schedule

  • Winnipeg vs. Brandon – 6 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Regina vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Edmonton – 7 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Tri-City – 8 p.m.

Bedard and Pats pushing for playoffs


For the first time since 2018, the expectations for the Regina Pats are to be part of the playoff conversation in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.

While some of that comes with the additions of former Lethbridge Hurricanes first round pick Zack Stringer on offense and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Stanislav Svozil on the blueline, along with the expected return of overage defenceman and Seattle Kraken draft pick Ryker Evans, a lot of it has to do with junior hockey phenom Connor Bedard.

Even though the 16-year-old is already the face of the franchise and possibly the entire WHL after just 15 games with the Pats, Bedard is quick to point out that it will be a total team effort for the Pats as they look to achieve their goals.

“This is a group of guys that really care,” Bedard said following a September pre-season game at the Art Hauser Centre. “They want to win and they are willing to do whatever it takes.

“We’ve had some tough practices so far with a couple of two hours skates and some bag skates, but we’ve been giving it all every day. If we can keep on doing that and fine-tuning the systems to where we need them to be, I think we’re going to be a really good team.”

The top pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and the first player to ever be granted exceptional status in league history, Bedard more than lived up to the hype during the 2020-21 campaign.

After playing a handful of games for the HV71 Under-18 and Under-20 teams in Sweden, he joined the Pats in the East Division hub and led the squad in scoring with 28 points in 15 games on his way to winning the WHL’s rookie of the year award.

Bedard rounded out the campaign by putting up 14 points in seven games to finish a tie with Kingston Frontenacs forward and 2022 NHL Draft prospect Shane Wright for the team scoring lead for Canada’s gold medal winning side at the IIHF World Under-18’s in Frisco, Texas before heading back home to North Vancouver, B.C.

“The summer definitely felt pretty short,” Bedard said. “I got back home around May 10 and went into quarantine thing before getting back training ahead of the Hockey Canada summer camps this summer.

“The off-season was shorter than normal but it feels to get back going again. All of us are really excited to get back going again.”

Although Bedard is used to being in leagues as an underage player, the adjustment of facing guys that were five years older than him was something that he and fellow 2005-born Pats forward Tanner Howe of Prince Albert had to get used to last year.

“The WHL is definitely a tough league and It was a big jump for Tanner and I as were going up against 20-year-olds and guys who had just got back from the World Juniors on a regular basis,” Bedard said.

“I wasn’t able to beat guys as much in one-on-one situations compared to what I was able to do in midget and leagues like that. I learned a lot from that as I worked on improving my speed and strength this summer and there are always things that you can take away from a season as you go into your off-season.

Unlike the hub campaign, which was held at the Brandt Centre in Regina, Bedard will be venturing out to opposing barns on regular basis this year.

The Pats paid visits to Winnipeg, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw during exhibition play and will open up their 2021-22 slate at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday with a 7 p.m. matchup with the Raiders.

“That first trip to Winnipeg was about six-and-a-half hours and I think it was a four-hour trip to Prince Albert,” Bedard said.

“I think that’s something that’s been really good for us, especially the young guys on our team as we get used to what the WHL is all about.

As one of the top prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft, Bedard’s already used to having the spotlight on him and is prepared for the extra exposure that will come his way, along with the catcalls from opposing fans.

“I skated with a lot of pro guys during the off-season and there were kids and older guys around the rink checking things out, so I’m getting used to that extra attention, but I think it’s something that you figure out how to handle as you go along,” Bedard said.

“It wasn’t a packed barn here tonight (on Sept. 17 against the Raiders) but it was loud and there were people cheering against us. It’s definitely good though to get that excitement that comes with having fans back in the building again.”

Carlton and St. Mary volleyball teams back on the court


With high school volleyball being forced to the sidelines in the province of Saskatchewan last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carlton Crusaders and St. Mary Marauders boys and girls programs have been in a get to you know phase since they made their way back on the court earlier this month.

“It’s a little bit like starting from scratch for everyone around the province,” Carlton senior boys head coach Curtis Bender said. “We’ve been in a lot of three-set games already and I think a lot of that has to do with all the teams being at the same level right now.

“For a lot of these guys, especially on our team, they haven’t played a lot of competitive volleyball and they don’t have that extra experience that comes with playing the club game.  There’s a lot of learning going on, but we’ve been improving every week and I like the direction we’re going in.”

The Marauders and Crusaders senior boys programs have taken part in three so far this year, as their season began at St. Mary before trips to Meadow Lake and Swift Current.

Carlton earned their best finish of the season two weeks ago with a sixth place result in Meadow Lake, while St. Mary split their junior and senior rosters into three teams for their home tournament and earned first, fifth and ninth place results.

The Marauders senior squad also had a strong showing in Swift Current last weekend as they picked up a silver medal.

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Colin Paulhus of the St. Mary Marauders leaps up for a smash during his team’s home tournament.

“It’s a new team for us in terms of adjusting to the senior high school volleyball mindset, but the majority of them played on our junior team two years ago and they have a lot of experience in club volleyball,” St. Mary senior boys head coach Rene Quintal said.

“The majority of our guys were able to stay active in the sport of volleyball with the opportunities that were provided to them during the pandemic, which I think has helped them out a lot.”

The learning curve has also been in effect for the Crusaders and Marauders senior girls programs during their first three tournaments of the season.

“It’s a lot different in terms of knowing what you have for the team as you really didn’t get to see the younger players play last year due to the pandemic,” Crusaders senior girls head coach Brooke Dallyn said.

“It’s kind of a rebuilding year for us as we only have two players returning from our 2019 team, but we’ve been in the middle of the pack at the three tournaments we’ve competed in (which were at Carlton, North Battleford and St. Mary) and we’ve been improving every time out, which is all you can ask for at this point in the season.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Isabella Winger of the St. Mary Marauders serves the ball into play during a tournament at Carlton on Friday, Sept. 10.

The Marauders have enjoyed an impressive start to their 2021 campaign as they won silver medals at Carlton and North Battleford before picking up a bronze medal last weekend on their home court.

“We have a pretty unique group this year as we’re a young team, but we have some key veterans leading the way,” St. Mary senior girls head coach Shaun Hunko said. “Everyone’s bought in and we’re getting a little better each week.

“This team has a very high ceiling and they are willing and wanting to get better each day. We’ve had a bit of success to start the season and we’re going to keep working hard so that we close the gap against the top teams in the 5A category.”

Carlton and St. Mary will be back on the tournament trail this weekend in Warman as they gear up for the 5A Girls Regional tournament, which will be held on Nov. 12 and 13 at St. Mary and will also include the North Battleford Vikings, Warman Wildcats and Lloydminster Barons.

The top two teams from that tournament will then advance to the provincials, which will be held in Swift Current on Nov. 19 and 20.

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Billie Dogniez of the Carlton Crusaders prepares to serve the ball into play during her team’s home tournament.

“Our big focus right now is the fundamentals,” Dallyn said. “As we go further down the road, we’re going to look more closely at what the other teams are doing, but right now our focus is on our side of the court before we get to regionals.”

“The two main components of our game that we are working on right now are our serving and serve receiving,” Hunko added. “That’s a big part of the girls game and we need to be sharp in those areas, especially as we get further into the season.”

Meanwhile, the Crusaders and Marauders boys squads will have their next big tournament at Carlton on Oct. 15 and 16.

Their 5A Boys Regional tournament, which will also feature North Battleford, Warman and Lloydminster, will take place in Lloydminster on Nov. 12 and 13, with the top three teams earning a spot at the provincials the following week in Saskatoon.

“I feel like it’s going to be a pretty wide open year,” Quintal said. “As we go through the season, our guys are going to grow as a team and I think you are going to see them mature a lot as they go through situations.”

“If we can clean some up the mistakes that we’re learning from, I think we can be right there with the top teams in the province,” Bender added. “We’re a young team that needs to learn how to win, but the lessons that we’re going through right now are going to make us better going forward.”

Ring rounds out season with trip to senior amateur nationals


During his golf career, Prince Albert’s Martin Ring has competed in a variety of Golf Canada championships.

While he has taken part in the Canadian men’s amateur, men’s mid-amateur and club champions championships over the years, last week marked his first time taking part in the Canadian men’s senior golf championship, which was held at the Club de Golf Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, Que.

“It was a great experience, especially as I got to see a lot of the guys I first met when I started going to the Canadian amateur events,” Ring said.

“The camaraderie with the other players, some of which I haven’t seen in a few years, was fantastic. A good friend of ours from New Brunswick (Darren Ritchie) finished in first and it was pretty special to see him win in person.”

Ring, who qualified for the tournament with a top five finish at the Golf Saskatchewan senior men’s championship in Warman in July, ended up in a tie for 56th over the four-day event.

A total of eight players from the province competed at the nationals, with Weyburn’s Rick Hallberg leading the way with a 23rd place result.

“I wasn’t really happy with my start, but I was happy with how I grinded things out and moved up 25 spots on the second day to make the cut, which was very satisfying,” Ring said. “I thought I hit the ball relatively well during the week and I was able to settle in there after that tough start.”

“You have to keep things in perspective though when you are out there and you are playing against 150 of the best golfers in the country. There are a lot of good golfers out there for that tournament.”

While Ring said the course shares some similarities to Waskesiu Golf Course and Golf Kenosee, the Club de Golf Le Manoir Richelieu is a lot different from what golfers would see in Saskatchewan.

“It’s kind of its own different animal when you get to the east,” Ring said.

“The biggest difference is the elevation changes, which are severe. I think we figured out that from the first tee to the third green, there was a 1,300-foot drop. Once you are going down, you know that you will eventually have to come back up, so that made things challenging.”

Ring’s trip to the senior men’s amateur wrapped up a stellar 2021 season, which saw him win the Team Northern championship at Cooke with his son Trevor in Mary, share the Senior Men’s Lobstick title at Waskesiu with Cliff Selander and Roger Gilhespy in June and capture his second Senior Men’s Northern title at Cooke in August.

“I have to give credit to all of the guys that I play with around here,” Ring said. “We continue to push each other and it helps me out a lot.”

Battle of Marauders becomes a defensive struggle


After channeling the spirit of the mid-90’s Nebraska Cornhuskers rushing attack in their home opener against the Bedford Road Redhawks, the St. Mary Marauders found themselves in an old-school SEC defensive duel on Friday afternoon.

In their first road game of the 2021 Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate campaign, St. Mary lost a closely fought 6-4 matchup to the Walter Murray Marauders at the Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

“It was a really tight game from start to finish,” St. Mary head coach Curt Hundeby said. “Both offences were sputtering a fair amount and we just kept putting the ball on the ground in the first half, which it made hard to establish any momentum.

“We had a few drives where we moved the ball down the field, but we just couldn’t finish.”

While the St. Mary offence was having a tough time against Walter Murray, their defence was also making things difficult for the other Marauders offence.

“We had a couple of defensive linemen that did a good job of shutting down the interior run game and putting lots of pressure on their passing game,” Hundeby said. “Our linebackers and secondary did a good job of covering off their receivers as well.

“We held them to a couple of field goals and were a breath away from getting a touchdown, but we just didn’t have that extra oomph to punch it in.  I don’t know if we were the better team on Friday, but we certainly had a chance to win.”

While Friday’s setback dropped their record to 1-1, Hundeby is pleased with the positive trends that he’s seen from the Marauders.

“There are still some mistakes we need to clean up of course and we have a few things we can tighten up or polish up out there, but I really think we’re in good shape at the moment,” Hundeby said.

“Our special teams have been really good so far and at the end of the game on Friday, Walter Murray lined up for kick after conceding a safety and booted the ball out of bounds instead of putting it in the hands of either of our returners. It’s a good feeling to know that the speed and danger element those guys have is something that other teams respect.”

St. Mary will be on the road again on Thursday afternoon as they’ll travel to the Saskatoon Minor Football Field for a 3 p.m. encounter with the 1-1 Bethlehem Stars.

“One of the biggest things that we’re going to be focusing on this week is making sure that we are practicing at a faster speed,” Hundeby said.  “I think we were at around 80 per cent in practice this past week and that’s not good enough when you are getting ready to play top teams.

“If practice goes as well as I think it will this week, I think Bethlehem is going to see a much different team than the one that played Walter Murray, especially on offence.”

The Marauders will return to Max Clunie Field on Friday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. when they’ll take on the Carlton Crusaders in the Canadian Tire Classic.

Crusaders stay undefeated with win over Stars


A quick start proved to be beneficial once again for the Carlton Crusaders football team.

The Crusaders improved to 2-0 in Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate play on Friday night at Max Clunie Field as they picked up a 34-24 triumph over the visiting Bethlehem Stars.

“It was very similar to how things played out in Saskatoon last weekend against Tommy Douglas,” Crusaders head coach Lindsay Strachan said.  “We were great on both sides of the ball and we jumped out to a 21-0 lead after our first three offensive possessions.

“Bethlehem regrouped a little bit after that and started to get things going on offence. It was a pretty back and forth game following the first quarter until we scored early in the fourth, which allowed us to make it a two-score game again and put the momentum back in our favour.”

As was the case in their 37-0 performance to start off the season against the Tommy Douglas Tigers, the Crusaders received a total team effort on their way to a second straight win.

“The biggest difference this time around was the fact that we faced some adversity when Bethlehem closed back in on us,” Strachan said.

“We had to battle through and make adjustments, so this game turned out to be a great test for us, especially since we have a younger group of kids. We got to see how they responded to certain situations.”

Although the season is still in its early stages, Strachan is pleased with how this year’s Crusaders side has been able to learn the nuances of high school football.

“They are like sponges as they are picking up things quickly, especially when it comes to the mentality that you need to play with,” Strachan said. “They aren’t afraid to stand across the field from somebody, who in some cases, are a couple of years older than they are.

“We got some of our young players in significant roles right now and they are doing a nice job.”

The Crusaders are back in action this Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. when they’ll welcome the 1-1 Walter Murray Marauders to Max Clunie Field.

“We’ve been looking a lot at their defence on film as they’ve only given up 17 points in two games, and they are a very solid group on that side of the ball,” Strachan said. “From an offensive standpoint, they use lots of movement and motion so we have to be prepared for that.

“They are a good team and we’re going to have our hands full, but I’m hopeful that we can have another fast start and give them a go on Thursday.”

Mintos proud of late-game push against Pat Canadians


While they came out on the wrong end of a 5-3 decision to the Regina Pat Canadians on Sunday afternoon, the Prince Albert Mintos third period performance could pay dividends as the season goes on.

In their second game of the weekend to kick off the 2021-22 campaign at the Art Hauser Centre, the Mintos clawed back from a 4-1 deficit in the late stages of the final frame and were close to finding the tying goal before Pat Canadians forward Ben Riche potted an empty-netter with nine seconds to go.

“We didn’t quit,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard said. “The guys could have quit when we got down there, but they stuck with it and we made it interesting towards the end.”

“We battled hard right until the final buzzer today,” rookie forward Ashton Tait added. “It was a brutal bounce there that led to the empty-netter, but it is what it is. We have a game on Wednesday against Warman, so we have to get ready for that.”

The Mintos, who opened up their Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League slate on Saturday with a 7-2 home triumph over the Swift Current Legionnaires, are also getting used to one another in this early stage of the season as players return from Western Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League camps.

“(Assistant coach) Bryan (Swystun) and I haven’t had a full roster in practice yet,” Leonard said. “The guys are still getting used to playing with each other, but this is a great group of kids and it’s been great to work with them so far.”

“I think (blueliner) Nate (Misskey) just got off the plane (from Victoria Royals training camp) before coming here this weekend,” Tait added. “This was a good weekend for our first time together and I think we’re going to be a really tough team to beat after we get some practices in.”

Mintos captain and Portland Winterhawks defensive prospect Rhett Ravndahl led the way for the hosts as he had a three-assist afternoon.

Jacob Cossette dished out a pair of helpers in the contest, which saw Danton Cox, Ryland Martin and Misskey all find the back of the net.

“Everyone’s chipping in for us and that’s awesome to see,” Ravndahl said.

“I think our team’s looking great already. We played hard against two tough teams, but we need to keep playing relentlessly if we want to have a good season.”

Riche, who is a Moose Jaw Warriors prospect, earned his first career hat trick on Sunday to help the Pat Canadians improve to 2-0.

Zayden Sadlemyer also had a strong showing for the visitors as he had a goal and two assists to move into a tie with Cossette for the early league scoring lead with five points.

Noel Englot and Koen Senft had two assists each in the triumph, which saw Luke Cote light the lamp and Regina Pats goaltending prospect Kelton Pyne stop 28 shots.

Jayden Kraus made 24 saves for the hosts in his first Under-18 start.

The 1-1 Mintos will be back in action on Wednesday evening as they’ll host the Warman Wildcats in a 7 p.m. matchup at the Art Hauser Centre.

That will mark the third game in a six-game homestand to start the season for the club, as they’ll take on the Wildcats again on Saturday, Oct. 2 before welcoming the Estevan Bears to town for a pair of games over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“The biggest thing we’re working on is our consistency,” Ravndahl said. “That’s the most important thing to focus on right now.

“We want to keep a steady pace throughout the season. We don’t want to be in a situation where we have a bunch of highs and lows.”

Sunday’s Scores

  • Battlefords 4 Yorkton 2 (Rylan Williams (Lethbridge Hurricanes Draft Pick) – Two Goals)
  • Warman 5 Estevan 1 (Jaydon Jessiman – Two Goals)
  • Saskatoon Blazers 8 Saskatoon Contacts 2 (Luke Dahlen (Eligible for the 2021 WHL Draft) – One Goal and Two Assists)

Wednesday’s Schedule

  • Estevan vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Warman vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Saskatoon Blazers vs. Battlefords – 7 p.m.
  • Yorkton vs. Notre Dame – 8 p.m.

Raiders wrap up pre-season slate


Following a quartet of exhibition games over the last two weekends, the Prince Albert Raiders are now gearing up for the start of the 2021-22 Western Hockey League campaign.

The Raiders concluded their pre-season schedule on Saturday evening in Warman, as they dropped a 2-0 decision to the Saskatoon Blades at the Legends Centre.

“The guys are playing as a team,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “Understanding structure is important and it’s a team-first mentality with the Raiders.

“As far I’m concerned, that was a great step for our team tonight as we get ready for Friday. No one is going to remember this game in three months, but this was a good building block.”

Saturday’s contest saw the 3-1 Blades get goals from forwards Jayden Wiens and Moritz Elias, while also receiving a 20-save shutout performance from Ethan Chadwick.

Raiders netminder Max Hildebrand put together his best game of the pre-season as he made 25 stops for the visitors, who had a 1-3 mark in exhibition play.

“Max and Ronin (Geraghty) were both good this weekend and they made some good saves,” Habscheid said.

“From a team aspect, this was our best game of the four we played in during the pre-season. I told the guys after the game that we need to have a foundation in order to build a house, and playing as a team is what we’ve stressed here in Prince Albert since I came here.”

During the pre-season, the Raiders suited up a younger lineup than normal as goaltender Carter Serehyenko, blueliners Nolan Allan, Kaiden Guhle and Landon Kosior, and forwards Reece Vitelli and Ozzy Wiesblatt have been attending National Hockey League camps, though Serhyenko is on his way back to Prince Albert after being reassigned by the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

They are also still awaiting the arrivals of imports Tikhon Chaika and Vladislav Shilo from Belarus and were without the services of forward Tyson Laventure for this weekend after he suffered an injury last Saturday night in a road tilt with the Regina Pats.

“We’ll get some guys back from camps and we may not get other guys back, but whoever we have Friday is who we’ll line up with,” Habscheid said.

The Raiders will open up their 2021-22 slate on Friday night as they’ll host the Pats in a 7 p.m. matchup at the Art Hauser Centre

The two sides will then travel to Regina the following afternoon for a 1 p.m. tilt at the Brandt Centre that will be broadcast nationally on CBC.

Post-Game Notes

The trip to Warman has been one that the Raiders would like to forget as they’ve lost their last four trips to the Legends Centre.

Their last win over the Blades in the neutral site game came on Sept. 10, 2016, when they won a wild 7-5 contest with their archrivals.

Chadwick, who has yet to play in a WHL regular season contest, recorded his first clean sheet of any kind since the 2019-20 season when he had one shutout for his hometown Saskatoon Under-18 Contacts

In addition to the Raiders scratches mentioned above, the Blades did not dress Austin Elliott, Ethan McColm, Rhett Rhinehart, Charlie Wright, Tristen Robins, Carter Streek, Jordan Keller and Colton Dach for their pre-season finale.

Saturday’s Pre-Season Scores

  • Winnipeg 4 Brandon 3 (Skyler Bruce – One Goal and Two Assists)
  • Calgary 2 Edmonton 1 (Zac Funk Overtime Winner – Blake Allan – Two Assists – Colby Knight – 41 Saves0
  • Red Deer 6 Lethbridge 1 (Jace Weir – Three Assists)
  • Moose Jaw 5 Regina 2 (Matthew Gallant – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Swift Current 8 Medicine Hat 2 (Josh Filmon – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Kamloops 4 Kelowna 3 (Josh Pillar – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Spokane 3 Tri-City 2 (Mason Beaupit – 27 Saves)
  • Prince George 8 Victoria 5 (Carter MacAdams – Three Goals)

Regular Season Starts Friday

  • Winnipeg vs. Brandon – 6 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Regina vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Red Deer vs. Edmonton – 7 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Tri-City – 8 p.m.

Hub season huge for Goldsmith’s development


In normal circumstances, Prince Albert Raiders blueliner Terrell Goldsmith would be using the 2021 Western Hockey League pre-season to get used to life at the major junior level.

However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and several other first round picks in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft got to suit up on a regular basis this past spring.

“It’s been a little bit different this time around for guys like me, Dallyn (Peekekeeot) and Tre (Fouquette) as we’ve had more time to learn about the systems during the pre-season instead of being thrown straight into game situations, but it is really nice to get back going again in these games,” Goldsmith said

“The biggest difference though is having fans again. It feels kind of weird, but it’s awesome to have people cheering us on again, especially the Raiders fans here in Prince Albert.”

The Fort St. James, B.C. product suited up for 14 games in the East Division Hub at the Brandt Centre in Regina, where he potted a pair of goals and earned the Raiders’ rookie of the year award.

“To be honest, moving up to the WHL was what I thought it would be like, as I expected to be going up against bigger guys and playing at a faster pace,” Goldsmith said.

“The overall speed of the game was probably the biggest eye-opener though. You need to move the puck quickly and make sure that you are playing your game.”

Goldsmith was also aided in his transition into the league by overage forward Justin Nachbaur and veteran blueliner Remy Aquilon.

“‘Nacho’ was a really nice guy and he was definitely a huge helping in introducing to all of the guys with the team,” Goldsmith said.

“Remy’s an awesome guy to watch on defence. He’s really smooth out there and he’s a good player to learn from.”

Prior to joining the Raiders, Goldsmith played for the Delta Hockey Academy and recorded 19 points in 23 games during his draft season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League for the school’s Under-15 prep program.

“I just tried to work hard and listen to my coaches during my time there so that I could be ready for the WHL,” Goldsmith said.

“The CSSHL is definitely a strong league, but the WHL is absolutely unreal, especially with all the great players in it.”

Although he’s just 16 years of age, the six-foot-three 213-pound Goldsmith is projected to be a big piece of a Raiders blueline that returns all but one player (Graydon Gotaas) from last season’s lineup.

“To have that chemistry is huge, especially for a younger guy like myself as I get to take parts of their game and learn from the advice that they give me,” Goldsmith said.

“I think we’re going to be a hard team to play against, especially on defence when Guhle, Allan and Kosior are all back from their NHL camps.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Saskatoon Blades forward Brendan Lee attempted to rearrange the face of Prince Albert Raiders forward Evan Herman during a post-whistle scrum.

While Friday’s pre-season contest at the Art Hauser Centre felt more like a WHL game than the Raiders’ wild 8-6 win over the Regina Pats last week, the hosts came out on the wrong end of a 4-2 decision against the archrival Saskatoon Blades.

“It was definitely a lot more structured out there but we still have a long way to go,” Goldsmith said.

“There’s still some work that we need to do with our systems and we need to work on our passing more, but I thought our offensive zone play and our play in the defensive zone was a lot better than what it was previously.”

Netminder Ronin Geraghty, who was acquired from the Tri-City Americans earlier this week, made an excellent first impression with the Raiders fans as he made 29 saves.

His best stop during a five-on-three Blades power play in the opening frame, as he lunged out to make a paddle save on rookie import forward Moritz Elias.

Kyle Crnkovic had a goal and two assists to lead for the Blades, who now have a 2-1 record in exhibition play, while linemate Brendan Lee had a goal and assist each.

Brandon Lisowsky and Pavel Bocharov also scored for the visitors, who received an 18-save outing from Nolan Maier.

Keaton Sorensen and Eric Pearce countered for the hosts.

The 1-2 Raiders will wrap up their pre-season slate Saturday in Warman as they’ll square off with the Blades in a 7 p.m. encounter at the Legends Centre.

Their regular season schedule will begin next Friday night when the Pats come to town for a 7 p.m. affair.

Post-Game Notes

Friday’s contest marked the first time that the Blades have played in Prince Albert since Feb. 29, 2020, when the Raiders came away with a 3-0 triumph.

Tikhon Chaika, Carter Serhyenko, Nolan Allan, Kaiden Guhle, Landon Kosior, Reece Vitelli, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Vladislav Shilo and Tyson Laventure did not dress for the hosts, while Austin Elliott, Ethan McColm, Aidan De La Gorgendiere, Rhett Rhinehart, Tristen Robins, Yegor Sidorov, Jordan Keller and Colton Dach were not in the lineup for the Blades.

Dach’s status with Saskatoon was a topic of discussion on social media on Friday as J.D. Burke of Elite Prospects tweeted that the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick was looking to be traded.

Pre-Season Scores


  • Kamloops 6 Vancouver 5 (Connor Levis Overtime Winner – One Goal and Two Assists – Game Played in Ladner, B.C.)
  • Spokane 6 Tri-City 1 (Cordel Larson – One Goal and Two Assists)


  • Winnipeg 5 Brandon 4 (Sequoia Swan – One Goal and One Assist)


  • Calgary 2 Edmonton 1 (Tristan Zandee Overtime Winner – Carter Yakemchuk – Two Assists)
  • Lethbridge 4 Red Deer 3 (Justin Hall – Two Goals)
  • Regina 4 Moose Jaw 1 (Matthew Kieper – 36 Saves)
  • Medicine Hat 3 Swift Current 2 (Owen MacNeil Overtime Winner – Cole Nagy – Two Goals)
  • Kamloops 4 Kelowna 2 (Fraser Minten – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Vancouver 3 Prince George 1 (Payton Mount – Three Goals – Second Career Pre-Season Hat Trick – Game Played in Maple Ridge, B.C.)

Around the WHL

Weyburn’s Alex Clarke made history on Friday evening as she became the first ever female linesperson in the WHL during a pre-season game between the Regina Pats and the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Clarke, who will be a full-time member of the WHL’s officiating crew this year, recently worked as an official at the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship in Calgary.

The 28-year-old has officiated games since 2017 in the SJHL, Saskatchewan Male and Female Under-18 AAA Leagues, U Sports Women’s Hockey and the Prairie Junior Hockey League.

A pair of WHL players inked entry-level deals Friday as Vancouver Giants forward Justin Sourdif and Everett Silvertips blueliner Ronan Seeley signed with the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes respectively.

The 19-year-old Sourdif was a third round pick by the Panthers in the 2020 NHL Draft and has posted 134 points in 147 games with the Giants since being picked third overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.

Seeley, who is also 19 years of age and was selected 20th overall by Everett in 2017, has recorded 58 points in 138 contests and was a seventh round selection by Carolina last year.

On the trade front, the Brandon Wheat Kings have acquired forward Ben Thornton from the Spokane Chiefs in exchange for a second round pick in December’s WHL Prospects Draft.

The 17-year-old from Chilliwack B.C. was the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft and had a goal in 10 games for the Chiefs during the 2020-21 campaign.

Around the CHL

The Canadian Hockey League quietly announced on Friday afternoon that the Canada/Russia Series will not be held for a second straight season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No hosts had been announced for this year’s event, which would have been the first to be held since 2019.

The CHL said they plan to hold the competition again in 2022.

Pre-Season Schedule


  • Brandon vs. Winnipeg – 6 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Calgary – 7 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Red Deer – 7 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m. (Game Played in Warman, Sask.)
  • Swift Current vs. Medicine Hat – 7 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Tri-City – 8 p.m.
  • Prince George vs. Victoria – 8 p.m.

Firestarter Tournament an important building block for Northern Bears


While their overall record wasn’t what they were hoping for, there were a lot of positives that the Prince Albert Northern Bears were able to take out of last weekend’s Firestarter Tournament in Calgary.

“We thought it went really well,” Northern Bears assistant coach Steve Young said following a team practice at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday night.

“Other than our exhibition games earlier this month against Lloydminster, it’s been about a full year since the girls have had competitive games, so it was important for them to play hockey again.”

The Bears posted a 0-2-1 record in round-robin play at the tournament, which was won by the Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna program in a 2-1 final against the Regina Rebels.

They lost a 3-2 contest to the host Calgary Fire, dropped a 6-2 decision to the Northern Capitals from Prince George, B.C. and played to a 2-2 tie with the Battlefords Sharks.

“I thought there were a lot of positives with the way that the girls worked during the games,” Young said.

“This group of girls have a great attitude and they are willing to try different things that we throw at them as a coaching staff. When you go into a weekend tournament like that one early in the season, you aren’t really sure what to expect, but I thought we got stronger as the tournament went on and we’re only going to get stronger from here.”

The trip to Calgary was also used was a bonding experience for the Bears roster, in addition to getting a chance to see opponents that they may run into in the future, especially at next year’s Esso Cup in Prince Albert.

“Nowadays, every player from the province seems to know everyone from the teams in their league,” Young said. “When you get out there and face those new teams and new players, it helps you quite a lot, especially as we get ready for next spring.”

Next up for the Bears is a trip to Swift Current next weekend for the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League showcase event, which will mark their final exhibition games before the regular season begins.

They will face the Rebels at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 and will then take on the Notre Dame Hounds at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, with both games being held at the Fairview Arena.

“We’re hoping that a lot of the things that we’re working on in practice ahead of these games will be close to the systems we run when the season starts,” Young said.

“We’ve been working on quite a few things in practice and our team has done a great job so far with what (head coach) Jeff (Willoughby) has thrown at them in practice. With the hard work that we’ve been doing, I think we will be in good shape heading into Swift Current.”

The Bears regular season schedule will begin on Saturday, Oct. 9 in Regina as they’ll visit the Rebels for a 7:30 p.m. matchup at the Co-Operators Centre.

Their home opener will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21, when the Sharks will pay a visit to the Art Hauser Centre.