Macias vaults to fan favourite in “Hockey Town North”

Photo by Mark Peterson Media. Raider forward Krzysztof Macias throws a replica stick to his mother Agnieszka after being named the first star on Feb. 1, 2024.

The faithful in “Hockey Town North” will always take players to heart who give everything they have for the Prince Albert Raiders on a nightly basis.

That player could be a top scorer, a stellar goalie, a defensive-defenceman, a third line checking forward or an energy type player. No matter what role you take on with the Raiders, players that give an honest effort on a nightly basis will be remembered by Raiders fans forever.

Raiders rookie import forward Krzysztof Macias has become one of those players that will be remembered fondly by Raiders fans. He hasn’t put up crazy point totals like Dan Hodgson, Mike Modano or Leon Draisaitl, but Macias’s effort level is evident on a nightly basis.

The 19-year-old has improved as the season has gone along, and he has been rewarded recently on the scorer’s sheet for the work he has put in through the campaign. In his last six games with the Raiders, Macias has collected four goals, eight assists and a plus-three rating in the plus-minus department.

On the season, Macias has appeared in 57 games for the Raiders posting 22 goals, 19 assists and a plus-six rating. While the Raiders selected Macias in the first round and 15th overall in the 2023 CHL Import Draft, one wondered how Macias’s time would play out with the Raiders when you saw he was from Nowy Targ, Poland.

Poland traditionally hasn’t been a place WHL clubs have pulled players from with hot spots usually being Czechia, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden, while Germany has provided some high-profile players like Draisaitl. Before joining the Raiders, Macias did play his previous five seasons in Czechia with HC Poruba and HC Vitkovice.

With HC Vitkovice’s under-20 team last season, Macias appeared in 44 games recording 28 goals, 24 assists and a plus-37 rating. From statistics, it was apparent talent was there, and like all imports, the question was how Macias would adjust to life in the WHL.

The transition to the WHL is a challenge for all import players learning the subtleties of how the game is played on the ice and adjusting to a new culture off the ice. Macias arrived in Prince Albert with a pretty good command of the English language. It was also a bonus his mom, Agnieszka, is an English teacher back in Poland.

Due to the fact he could speak English well upon his arrival in Prince Albert, Macias got a head start adjusting to life away from the rink. People in Prince Albert seemed to develop a soft spot for Macias quickly, and he became a fan favourite rapidly.

Macias scored in his first WHL regular season game as the Raiders opened the campaign blanking the Moose Jaw Warriors 4-0 back on September 22 at the Art Hauser Centre. That tally showed some of the early comfort level that was present.

Of course, all rookies go through a learning curve and dry spells. Macias was no different, but he maintained his effort even if the results didn’t come.

Another early highlight came when he recorded a hat trick in a 6-2 Raiders win over the Rebels in Red Deer on October 6. One of the big recent highlights came this past Friday when Macias picked up his 20th goal of the season, which was the winner coming with 1:24 remaining in the third period in a 2-1 victory against the Wheat Kings in Brandon.

It is always a special milestone the first time a player records 20 goals in a WHL season. It was a heartwarming moment for Raiders fans as they’ve now almost had a full campaign watching Macias grow before their eyes.

The connection with Macias was strengthened that much more when Agnieszka and his father, Marcin, visited Prince Albert for two weeks in early February. The community was overjoyed and very welcoming to have Macias’s parents in town, and it is safe to say they had a memorable time in “Hockey Town North.”

When you follow a team and stay present in a team’s journey through a season, you develop good memories like seeing Macias’s story play out with the Raiders. Those are the types of things that create memories that last forever.

Rebels shake up coaching staff, other notes

The Red Deer Rebels shook up the WHL new cycle on Friday with a late season coaching change you don’t see much in major junior hockey.

Following a 7-5 loss at home to the Swift Current Broncos, Rebels general manager, president and owner Brent Sutter announced the club and head coach Derrick Walser mutually agreed to part ways. The Rebels proceeded to bring good guy coach Dave Struch back to the WHL naming him as the club’s interim head coach. With Struch behind the bench, the Rebels downed the visiting Calgary Hitmen 2-1 on Saturday.

Struch, who is 53-years-old, had been working as the director of hockey for the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame and was the head coach of the school’s male under-15 prep team. He was last in the WHL serving as the associate coach for the Everett Silvertips in the 2022-23 campaign.

The Flin Flon, Man., product is best known for his WHL coaching stays with the Regina Pats that ran from the start of the 2014-15 campaign to November of 2021 and with the Saskatoon Blades that ran from the 2006-07 campaign to the 2013-14 campaign.

Walser, who is 45-years-old, was serving in his first campaign as the Rebels head coach. The Rebels stumbled a bit coming out of the gate posting a 13-12-0-3 record to begin the 2023-24 season.

They proceeded to jet out on a tear going 14-1-1-1 over their next 17 games to improve to 27-13-1-4, and it appeared they would chase down the Medicine Hat Tigers for first place in the WHL’s Central Division.

The Rebels took a nine game winning streak into a road game on Jan. 31 against the Raiders in Prince Albert. The Raiders pulled out a 4-3 victory after a tiebreaking shootout, and the wheels seemingly fell off for the Rebels at that point.

In their last 15 games under Walser’s watch including the shootout loss to the Raiders on Jan. 31, the Rebels posted a 3-9-1-2 mark to see their record fall to 30-22-2-6.

“As we went along you just didn’t see the change in the dressing room you need to have this time of year where you’re moving up,” said Sutter to Ian Gustafson of the Red Deer Advocate. “There was no traction.

“I’ve been around the game a long time and you just know.”

With the win under Struch, the Rebels sit fifth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a 31-22-2-6 mark. Last season under Steve Konowalchuk as Rebels head coach, the Rebels topped the Central Division with a 43-19-3-3 mark and fell in the second round of the WHL Playoffs to the Saskatoon Blades.

The Rebels took the first three games in the best-of-seven series with the Blades before the Blades rallied back to take the last four games of the series. Konowalchuk resigned from the Rebels in May of 2023 looking to find a situation that worked better for his family life. His permanent residence at the time was still Seattle, Wash., where he served as Seattle Thunderbirds head coach from 2011 to their WHL title winning season in 2017.

When Sutter has owned the Rebels and hasn’t served as the team’s head coach, it seemed like Konowalchuk was the head coach he had the best chemistry with. It was interesting that Sutter had a coach lined up right away after agreeing to part ways with Walser.

Still, it isn’t common to see WHL teams make a coaching change when they are sitting in a playoff spot with about eight to 10 games remaining on their regular season schedule. Struch is a players’ first coach who does have a good energy and intensity to him. It is possible he helps a veteran Rebels team that has underachieved to this point right the ship.

  • On Tuesday, the Prince George Cougars were rated second in the CHL’s Top 10 Rankings. Also cracking those rankings from the WHL are the Blades at fifth, the Portland Winterhawks at seventh, the Everett Silvertips at eighth and the Moose Jaw Warriors at 10th.
  • Spokane Chiefs centre Berkly Catton is having an impressive sophomore season. Catton, who turned 18-year-old in January, entered play on Tuesday sitting fourth in WHL scoring with 98 points coming off 45 goals and 53 assists to go with a plus-five rating. He is a highly touted prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft to be held June 28-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • When the host Kamloops Blazers downed the Vancouver Giants 3-2 on Saturday, they improved to 20-34-3-3, which meant every team in the WHL has won at least 20 or more games in the current regular season. The last time that happened was back in the 2017-18 campaign when the Edmonton Oil Kings finished last with a 22-42-6-2 mark.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at