Raiders and Blades will meet for first time this season on the weekend

Prince Albert Raiders forward Keaton Sorenson prepares to tuck the puck between the legs of Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Ethan Kruger as he scores the first of his two goals in a 3-1 victory during Western Hockey League action at Westoba Place on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Perry Bergson/The Brandon Sun)

The Prince Albert Raiders will begin their fifth home and home series of the season this weekend, with a pair of games against the Saskatoon Blades.

The Raiders haven’t played since Saturday, when they picked up a 3-1 win in Brandon, collecting the split in their last home and home matchup.

Raider forward Keaton Sorenson, who scored twice in Saturday’s win, said he’s looking forward to this weekend’s games against Prince Albert’s biggest rival.

“They’re two of the biggest game of the year,” Sorenson said. “I think if we play a full 60 minutes in both games we shouldn’t have a problem this weekend. It should be fun.”

The Raiders have split three out of the four home and home sets with Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, and Brandon, getting swept in only one, at the start of the season against the Regina Pats.

The club’s offence is stepping up after a slow start to the season, scoring at least three goals in four of their last five games. At the start of the year, they only managed to score three goals in a game in one of their first six games.

A depleted roster didn’t help things, with defenceman Kaiden Guile and Nolan Allan at NHL camps, Tyson Laventure injured, and imports Vlad Shilo and Tikhon Chaika yet to arrive from Belarus. Now that all their main pieces are back on the ice, the club has started to settle down, and Sorenson said they’re eager to compete against an in division rival.

“We look forward to these games,” he said. “I think they’ll be good ones.”

The Raiders sit in last place in the East Division, but are only three points back of the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings for third place. The Winnipeg and Saskatoon Blades seem to be running away with the top two spots early in the 2021-22 season.

The Blades are off to a hot start this year, sitting in second with a 9-2-1 record. That puts them five points behind Winnipeg, who have a 12-1-0 record. The Ice and Blades not only lead the East Division, they sit 1-2 in the entire WHL.

The Blades have scored in bunches all year long, scoring three or more times in 11 of their first 12 games, only failing to do so in a 7-1 loss against the Warriors in their season opener.

Tristen Robins and Kyle Crnkovic have led the way for the Blades offensively, with 22 and 20 points respectively. Robins has points in 10 of 11 of his games played this season, while Crnkovic has put up at least one point in every game.

Ten of those points for both players have come on the powerplay, so for the Raiders, staying out of the penalty box will be key.  Out of 48 Saskatoon goals this season, 19 have come on the man advantage, out of 60 powerplay chances. Their 31.7% powerplay conversion rate has them sitting third in the league.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Raiders are fourth last in the WHL on the penalty kill, allowing 16 goals on 57 chances.

The first game of the home and home set is on Friday in Prince Albert. The two rivals will then head to the Bridge City on Saturday for the rematch.

Puck drop at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday is at 7pm.

@kyle_kosowan •