It was the first time the Prince Albert Raiders have hosted a skills competition in over a decade, and it was a finish worth the price of admission.
Raiders business manager Michael Scissons says the skills competition was brought back to show more of the player’s personalities to the Prince Albert fanbase.
“We’re trying to get the helmets off the guys and have some fun with them. Seeing the character of our players, seeing some of their antics like Chaika in the shootout doing all those things and Hildebrand riding his stick. Those are the type of things we get to see in practice all the time, but the fans don’t see because the games are so serious. These kids came out and had a blast and put on a show for everyone in attendance and that was the business decision going in to have exactly that.”
Scissons adds that what was showcased on Tuesday night is seen often by team staff and the coaches during practice, but rarely showed to the fanbase.
“It’s pretty easy when we are playing a different team scrapping for every single point and every single puck on the ice. These guys love living and playing in PA, and I think some of that character showed tonight when they got to have a little bit of fun. Make fun of each other and generally have a good time. At the end of the day, these are young men 16 to 20 years old who are here a long way away from home with their brothers on the ice and the fans in the crowd.”
The Raiders were split up into two teams for the event, Team Green captained by Public Address announcer Rob Lindsey and Team White lead by radio play-by-play broadcaster Rob Mahon.
The teams competed in the fastest skater, hardest slapshot, a relay race, shot accuracy and a breakaway competition.
But even after all of that, the teams were even in the number of points awarded and it came down to a sudden death goaltender shootout between Tikhon Chaika and Max Hildebrand.
Chaika took the first attempt but was denied by the left pad of Hildebrand.
Hildebrand removed his blocker and glove to grab a traditional stick for his first shot, but the Belurusian Chaika pulled out all the stops from his bag of tricks, lowering the net to the ice preventing his tandem mate from finding the back of the net.
As Hildebrand was putting his glove and blocker back on, Chaika took off and scored on the empty net to secure the skills competition victory for Team White.
Chaika says it was a special feeling to score as a goaltender.
“It was awesome. That was first goal so yeah, I get a joy out of it and it’s always a pleasure. I just saw the empty net, and we’ve been doing shootouts for 20 minutes and I was pretty tired. I needed to score a goal as soon as possible. I just stole the puck and skated as fast as I could and I scored the goal.”
The Raiders will have five consecutive road games before returning home and Chaika says the team will look to use the high morale from the skills competition on the trip.
“It brings a good mood here today. We will keep working this week and have a good road trip.”
The Raiders return to action on Friday night when they take on the Calgary Hitmen at the Scotiabank Saddledome.