Raiders prepare for pivotal game against Pats

Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Remy Aquilon. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Raiders will have a tough test ahead of them on Friday, as they welcome red hot Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats.

With both teams tied in the standings and fighting for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, it will be one of their biggest games of the season. The Raiders play three more games against Regina this season, and overage defenceman Remy Aquilon says every point is starting to matter towards the standings.

“That’s something we’ve been looking into this week,” Aquilon said about passing the Pats in the standings. “During practice it’s been super high paced and high tempo, so we’ve been working hard and we’re getting prepared for Friday.”

The Raiders’ most recent win came on Saturday, 3-2 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The win temporarily put Prince Albert just three points back of the Hurricanes, but Lethbridge took two points out of Moose Jaw on Tuesday with a 1-0 shootout win.

While the team can’t control what happens in other games around the league, Aquilon says it’s important for Prince Albert to focus on their own game, and let their work on the ice decide their success.

“It’s been a tough season, and we’ve had our ups and downs for sure,” the Raiders’ alternate captain said. “We haven’t really had the consistency we’ve been looking for throughout the year, but with the position that we’re in now, we’ll work with it, and we’ll only get better.”

Behind the bench, head coach Marc Habscheid has been in his players’ ears all season. And since the Raiders are still technically the defending WHL champions, Aquilon says the bench boss hasn’t lost his winning mentality through the hardships.

“He tells us that all the time. He reminds us and we get the message. I think that’s something that we bring into every game and he’s right. We are still (defending champs), and that’s something we need to have in our minds.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and commitment (to make the playoffs). We’re buying into the culture here, and we’re all brothers, so we have to trust each other.”

As the only overage defenceman on the team, it’s easy for young defencemen like Tayem Gislason, Terrell Goldsmith, and Eric Johnston to look up to Aquilon for guidance. However, he feels like the young players on the back end have been doing a good job of finding a game that works best for them.

“I wouldn’t say it’s guidance, but I’ve definitely been there to tell them that they’re doing a good job. I think (assistant coach Jeff Truitt) does a good job of guiding them and telling them what they need to do, and what they need to do to get better in this league. They’ve grown a lot since the start of the season, and it’s good to see.”

The Raiders welcome the Pats to the Art Hauser Centre on Friday night. They host the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday, before heading on a five game road swing.

Puck drop for both games this weekend is at 7pm.