Protas and Sapego to play for Belarus at Division I World Juniors

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Sergei Sapego controls the puck during a game against the Medicine Hat Tigers earlier this season.

While Canadian hockey fans wait to find out who will be invited to the World Junior Selection Camp Monday, two members of the Prince Albert Raiders will be looking to help their country return to the main tournament.

Forward Aliaksei Protas and defenceman Sergei Sapego will be competing for Belarus at the IIHF 2019 World Junior Division I Championship, which takes place from Dec. 9-15 in Fussen, Germany.

“We’re both so excited to get a chance to play at a big tournament and to represent our country,” Sapego said.

“It’s just an awesome opportunity and we both want to help move Belarus back to the main tournament.”

Belarus competed at the World Juniors last winter in Buffalo, which was an event that Sapego was in the mix to take part in before suffering an injury.

They finished at the bottom of Pool B with an 0-4 record and lost in the relegation round in two games to Denmark to fall out of the main pool.

In order to make next year’s main tournament, which will be held in the Czech Republic, Belarus will have to finish in first place in a round-robin format against Austria, France, Germany, Latvia and Norway.

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Aliaksei Protas makes a pass during a matchup against the Swift Current Broncos on Nov. 9.

The Raiders teammates have previous experience in international events, as Sapego took part in the 2017 World Under-18 Hockey Championship and Protas competed at the same event last April.

“I think that will help us a lot in knowing what to expect,” Protas said. “It was great to play against Canada and some other great teams from all over the world.

“Having him (Protas) with me for this experience should be great, especially since we are both from the same town (Vitebsk) and now we are playing for the same teams,” Sapego added.

The full roster for Belarus has yet to be announced, but Protas expects the squad to feature a number of players from the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League.

Before they venture overseas, Protas and Sapego will look to help the 25-1 Raiders keep their 18-game win streak going Saturday night as they pay a visit to the Regina Pats.

“We’re just playing together as a team and everyone is helping each other out to get better,” said Protas, who is second in WHL rookie scoring with 22 points in 26 games.

“Everyone’s so close with this group and it’s been a lot of fun so far,” added Sapego, who leads all Raiders blueliners with 23 points in 23 games.

Pre-Game Notes

Saturday’s contest is the third meeting of the year between the East Division rivals, with the Raiders picking up the victory each time out.

The Pats, who have an 8-18 record and are currently mired in a three game losing streak, parted ways with their top three scorers this week.

After sending overage defenceman Aaron Hyman to the Tri-City Americans for overage forward Brett Clayton and a draft pick, the Pats dealt Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jake Leschyshyn and Colorado Avalanche draft pick Nick Henry to the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday for forwards Jadon Joseph and Ty Kolle, along with seven draft picks (Lethbridge’s first and third in 2019, Swift Current’s eighth in 2019, Swift Current’s first in 2020, Lethbridge’s fourth in 2022, plus conditional third round picks in 2021 and 2022).

Henry led the Pats in scoring at the time of the trade with 40 points in 25 games, while Leschyshyn had 32 points in 24 games.

Joseph and Kolle, who made their debuts in the Pats lineup along with Clayton on Friday, have 19 and 12 points respectively this season.

Duncan Pierce returned to action in Brandon, but fellow forwards Koby Morrisseau and Robbie Holmes remain sidelined with injuries.

Friday’s Scoreboard

  • Brandon 5 Regina 1 (Linden McCorrister – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Moose Jaw 3 Edmonton 1 (Adam Evanoff – 35 Saves)
  • Lethbridge 3 Swift Current 1 (Justin Hall – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Red Deer 6 Calgary 2 (Brandon Hagel – Two Goals and One Assist)
  • Kamloops 3 Saskatoon 2 (Quinn Schmiemann Overtime Winner – Connor Zary – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Seattle 7 Kootenay 4 (Zack Andrusiak – Three Goals and One Assist – Second Hat Trick This Season and Fourth Career – Peyton Krebs – Three Goals – First Career Hat Trick)
  • Kelowna 3 Tri-City 2 (Leif Mattson Overtime Winner – Two Goals)
  • Everett 5 Spokane 4 (Connor Dewar Overtime Winner – One Goal and One Assist)

Around the WHL

The Red Deer Rebels bolstered their forward core on Friday afternoon as they acquired Dallas Stars draft pick Brett Davis and fellow 19-year-old Cameron Hausinger from the Kootenay Ice.

In return, the Ice picked up 18-year-old forward Austin Schellenberg, 17-year-old forwards River Fahey and Justin Svenson, along with 15-year-old forward Chase Bertholet, who has 16 points in 21 games for the Prince Albert Mintos this season but hasn’t signed a WHL standard player agreement.

The Ice also received the Rebels’ first, third and sixth round picks in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, a second round pick in 2020 and a conditional third round pick in 2022.

Davis, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Stars, has 19 points in 24 games this season and was second in scoring for the Ice at the time of Friday’s trade.

Hausinger, who played with the Rebels for 41 games during the 2016-17 season after a trade with the Saskatoon Blades, has 17 points in 27 games this year.

Schellenberg has had the most success of the three forwards with WHL experience that the Ice acquired Friday, as he’s picked up nine points over the last two seasons in Red Deer.

Fahey’s had four points over parts of the last two years, while Svenson hadn’t recorded a point in 19 career games before being sent down to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Swan Valley Stampeders, where he has 11 points in 15 games this season.

The Ice would make another deal later in the day as they acquired forward Jack Cowell from the Kelowna Rockets for a third round pick in the 2020 draft.

Cowell, a 19-year-old from Winnipeg, has five points in 26 games this season and recorded a career high 34 points last year.

In non-trade news, one-time Red Deer Rebels draft pick Cam York has committed to the NCAA’s Michigan Wolverines for next season.

York, a 17-year-old defenceman who a ninth round pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, has five assists in eight USHL games for the US NTDP and is projected to be a first round pick at June’s NHL Draft.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Prince Albert vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Brandon vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Red Deer – 8 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Calgary – 8 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Portland – 8 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Medicine Hat – 8:30 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Kamloops – 9 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Vancouver – 9 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Kelowna – 9 p.m.
  • Kootenay vs. Everett – 9 p.m.