Bedard visit played out perfectly for Raiders fans

Never underestimate how much Prince Albert Raiders fans want their team to win even when Connor Bedard is in the house on a rockstar tour.
On Friday, the 17-year-old phenom centre made his only visit to Prince Albert with his Regina Pats for the 2022-23 regular season. Bedard missed the Pats previous two visits to “Hockey Town North” due to his obligations with Canada’s world junior team.
While there was hype around his four visits to Prince Albert last season, Bedard’s most recent visit came after his brand took a huge jump upwards after his play at this past world juniors, where he helped Canada win a gold medal. Canada took the gold medal final 3-2 in overtime over Czechia this past January 5 in Halifax, N.S.
Bedard, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 185 pounds, topped the tourney held jointly in Halifax and Moncton, N.B., in goals (nine), assists (14), points (23) and had the best plus-minus (+13).
The North Vancouver, B.C., product was named the most valuable player at world juniors along with picking up accolades being named the event’s best forward and a tournament all-star.
His tallies for assists and points were new Canadian records for a single world juniors along with setting a new record for points in a tournament by any player aged 18 or younger. In 16 career games played at world juniors, Bedard set new Canadian career records at the event for goals (16) and points (36).
Barring something unforeseen, Bedard will be the first overall selection in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft which will be held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, from June 28 to 29. He is rated first among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-Term Rankings.
When Bedard arrived in Prince Albert on Friday, a sellout crowd of 3,299 spectators was on hand at the 2,580 seat Art Hauser Centre. The Raiders were able get 10 more spectators in the building compared to their last sellout of 3,289 spectators that came out for the team’s epic 3-2 overtime win over the Vancouver Giants in Game 7 of the WHL Championship Series on May 13, 2019.
The Raiders fans got everything they wanted to see out of that clash with Bedard and the Pats. The host side won 6-5, and Bedard had a big night recording two goals and two assists in the setback. At game’s end, Bedard had 50 goals and 50 assists for 100 points in 40 games played.
The Art Hauser Centre faithful was cheering loud and proud for the host side. With the Pats holding a 5-4 lead early in the third period, big cheers went up when Raiders 16-year-old rookie right-winger Grady Martin scored his first career WHL goal to even the score at 5-5 with 14:41 remaining in the frame.
Bigger cheers went up a short time later when Raiders netminder Max Hildebrand stoned Bedard on a breakaway preventing the North Vancouver, B.C., product from getting a hat trick. The applause hit a peak pitch when Raiders 17-year-old rookie centre Aiden Oiring netted the winner with 10:19 remaining in the third. The Raiders received an outstanding salute after the third period clock elapsed to finalize victory.
With that noted, the rockstar fandom for Bedard was there. When the doors opened to allow people into the rink area, about four or five children aged five or six bolted to the Pats bench area hoping to get a look at Bedard. A number of fans turned out wearing Bedard’s #16 Hockey Canada style jersey from world juniors.
There was a group of teenage girls in the stands that held up a sign that said, “Connor Bedard we’re crushing hard.”
When Bedard scored his 50th goal of the season with 2:59 remaining in the second, he received a warm and polite ovation from the Art Hauser Centre faithful, when the milestone was announced by public address announcer Rob Lindsay. The reaction showed a lot of class for a player who achieved the rare accomplishment of scoring 50 goals in 40 games.
The last player to score 50 goals in 50 or few games in a WHL regular season was Jayden Halbgewachs of the Moose Jaw Warriors back in the 2017-18 campaign. Halbgewachs netted 50 goals in his first 47 contests that season.
For the young Raiders, it was big for them to be able to pull out a firewagon style 1980s offensive hockey game. If someone would have said Bedard was getting four points and the Pats were scoring five goals at the start of that contest, you would have thought the game would be a Pats win, because you weren’t sure the Raiders would have the offensive punch to overcome that.
The Raiders did indeed score six with goals coming from six different players in Brayden Dube, Carter Anderson, Ryder Ritchie, Keaton Sorensen, Martin and Oiring. Hildebrand played really well making 32 saves on the night, and he couldn’t be faulted on any of the goals.
Since that contest, the Raiders have won twice more and are riding a four game winning streak that has improved their record to 23-28-3 to sit six points back of a playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Overall, Friday’s win over Bedard and the Pats was a special one for the fans in attendance and a night they won’t soon forget.
Blazers on fire with nine straight wins, other notes
The Memorial Cup hosting Kamloops Blazers are on a heater.
With Monday’s 7-3 victory over the Oil Kings at Rogers Place in Edmonton in the books, the Blazers have won their last nine straight games. The acquisitions made leading to the WHL’s trade deadline on January 10 have gotten comfortable with their new team, and the Blazers have returned everyone to action on their injured list.
In Monday’s contest, Slovakian right-winger Jakub Demek made his Blazers debut against his former club in the Oil Kings. Demek hadn’t seen any game action since suiting up for Slovakia at the world juniors played in Edmonton last August. He suffered a shoulder injury at that tourney that required surgery, and he has been on a longer road to recovery ever since.
The Oil Kings dealt Demek to Kamloops in a blockbuster deal on November 14, 2022. Edmonton won the WHL championship last season making a number of trades to load up on a long post-season run, and due to those moves, the team is in a complete rebuilding phase this season.
Demek didn’t register any points and neither did Blazers scoring leader Logan Stankoven. Stankoven sits third in the WHL scoring race heading into Tuesday’s action with 79 points coming on 27 goals and 52 assists to go with a plus-38 rating in the plus-minus department in 37 regular season appearances.
Dylan Sydor and Daylan Kuefler each scored twice, while Caedan Bankier, Olen Zellweger and Matthew Seminoff each had singles. While missing a number of games to help Canada win gold at this past world juniors, Zellweger sits third in defenceman scoring in the WHL heading into Tuesday’s games with 59 points coming off of 19 goals, 40 assists to go with a plus-18 rating in 39 games split between the Silvertips and Blazers.
The Blazers acquired Zellweger and star overage power forward Ryan Hofer in a blockbuster trade with the Silvertips this past January 8.
Blazers starting goaltender Dylan Ernst was given the night off against the Oil Kings, and Matthew Kieper made 16 stops to pick up the win in goal for Kamloops. Ernst is having a standout season posting a 30-8-3 record, a 2.61 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts.
Entering play on Tuesday, the Blazers had vaulted to second overall in the WHL’s Western Conference with a 36-10-4-2 mark for 78 points. They sit tied for the third to fifth spots in the overall WHL standings with the Red Deer Rebels (37-14-1-4) and the Saskatoon Blades (37-13-3-1).
If the Blazers continue this hot run through the end of the regular season, they might make it to the Memorial Cup as WHL champs.
Longtime sports scribe Rob Vanstone worked his final shift at the Regina Leader-Post on Saturday covering the Pats 7-4 setback to the WHL leading Winnipeg Ice. On Sunday, the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders announced Vanstone has joined their organization as a senior journalist and Roughrider historian. Vanstone had been with the Leader-Post since 1986 and covered the sports scene in Regina and Saskatchewan at a hall of fame level. On November 5, 2022, he was presented the Bob Ridley WHL Award for Media Excellence before the Pats fell to the Swift Current Broncos 5-2 that night.
Thanks to Vanstone’s work, we know that Bedard was the second fastest player in Pats history to reach 50 goals in a season since the formation of the WHL in 1966, when he tallied his 50th goal in his 40th game on Friday against the Raiders. Jock Callander holds the Pats record as the fastest player to reach 50 goals in a season. Callander scored 50 goals in 39 games in the 1981-82 campaign as a 20-year-old centre for the Pats.
Since moving to Winnipeg at the start of the 2019-2020 campaign, the Ice are 21-0 when they face the Pats head to head. The Pats managed one overtime loss and one shootout loss over that stretch. The last time the Pats beat the Ice was back on February 20, 2019 prevailing 5-4 after a tiebreaking shootout in Regina. The Ice were still based in Cranbrook, B.C., as the Kootenay Ice at that time. That Pats win marked the last time those two clubs met when the Ice were still in Cranbrook.
Chaz Lucius was only with the Portland Winterhawks for a short time. Back on January 9, the 19-year-old centre was assigned by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets from their AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose to the Winterhawks. Lucius, who helped the United States win bronze at this past world juniors, played six games for the Winterhawks from January 20 to January 29 piling up five goals, 10 assists and a plus-eight rating. He injured his shoulder in a 4-3 overtime win over the Spokane Chiefs in Portland on January 29 and underwent season ending shoulder surgery on February 6. That was a bad luck development for the White Bear Lake, Minn., product and the Winterhawks.
Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at