Raiders look to keep rolling, play home and home with Blades this weekend

Herald file photo. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

After beating the Winnipeg Ice 4-1 Tuesday night at the Art Hauser Centre, the Prince Albert Raiders have found themselves right back into the thick of things in the East division. They are now just five points back of the Warriors, Wheat Kings, and Blades, who are all tied for second in the division.

Prince Albert has a pair of important dates with the Saskatoon Blades this weekend, with a chance to pull within two points of the Blades before the break. With four of Prince Albert’s next five meetings coming against Saskatoon, the Raiders have a good shot at climbing up the standings by the New Year.

“Saskatoon is one of those teams we’re trying to catch in the standings,” Raider captain Reece Vitelli said. “They’re our rival and we have two big games coming up here before the break. That’s where our minds are right now.”

Fellow forward Ozzy Wiesblatt echoed Vitelli’s comments, saying their upcoming weekend games are an opportunity to gain some ground on their division opponents.

“I think any points you can get are really important,” Wiesblatt said. “Everyone is really close in the standings right now. We’ve shocked some teams and have come out with some really big wins so these next points are huge for us.”

Wiesblatt is in his fourth season with the Raiders, so he has had his fair share of games against the Blades. He explained the rivalry the two teams have, and how unique these games are.

“The four years I’ve been here the rivalry has been awesome. They’re always games you don’t have to get too excited for, because the excitement is always there.”

In two meetings with the Blades this season, Prince Albert is 2-0, with a 5-1 win at the Art Hauser Centre on Nov. 5, and a 5-2 victory in Saskatoon the very next day. After winning both games so far this season, Vitelli knows Saskatoon will be looking for a pair of bounce back games themselves.

“They’re going to come out and have a push from the last time we played them,” he said. “We have to be ready right off the start on Friday and just have to play how we want to play. If we dictate the pace and physicality out there I think we’ll be good.”

The Raiders are 4-2-1-0 over their last six games, and after playing some of their best hockey games in two wins over Winnipeg in that stretch, Wiesblatt explained how his team has found success.

“It’s been great. The guys are trusting each other and trusting they’ll do their job. We’re not being too fancy and we’re getting the job done. If we play our game and play hard, we can beat any team in this league. It’s good for the guys and our confidence is good right now.”

Not only will the Raiders and Blades play twice before Christmas, they will also have two more meetings right after the break before New Year’s. Prince Albert will play Saskatoon on Dec. 27th at home, as well as the Red Deer Rebels on the 29th -. Then on the 30th, the Raiders will make the trip to Saskatoon for their fourth meeting in five games.

After that, these two teams won’t see each other until March, where they will play four games in a row against each other from the 11th to the 19th. So with eight more meetings this season which start this weekend, points will be plentiful for Prince Albert if they can keep things rolling.

Puck drop on Friday is at 7pm.