The Prince Albert Raiders are heading south of the border.
Prince Albert kicks off a season long seven game road trip starting on Wednesday night in Lethbridge, before crossing the border into the United States to take on all six teams in the WHL’s U.S. Division.
Last season, the Raiders did not make their Western Conference trip to the B.C. division until after the trade deadline in January.
Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says the trip will provide an excellent opportunity for Prince Albert to gel as a team early in the campaign.
“I like getting out on the road early on these extended road trips. It gets the team together. It gets them focusing on our game that we need to play every day out there without the distractions being at home. I like it whenever it happens. If it happens now, there’s just some good weather down in Tri- Cities, Portland and Seattle. It doesn’t matter when it is. But the focal point is that we get the focus on our game. So that’s key.”
It will be the first time the Raiders have headed south of the border to take on the U.S. Division since the 2019-20 season. On the five-game trip in October 2019, the Raiders finished with a record of 2-2-1 with wins over the Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs. Prince Albert fell in regulation to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks and were defeated in overtime by the Everett Silvertips.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting interconference play in the WHL and international travel as a whole, it will be the first time for a majority of the Raider roster playing in the United States.
Overage forward Sloan Stanick dressed for the Regina Pats in their last U.S. Division trip back in the 2019-2020 campaign as a 16-year-old.
Looking back on his experience with the Pats on the U.S. trip, Stanick says he was still getting his feet wet in the WHL and enjoyed getting to know his teammates on the trip.
“I was just a young kid on the team and getting to know the older guys. The crowds are always awesome and just bonding, going out to eat with the guys and just all those amazing things make it fun.”
Stanick was originally drafted by the Silvertips in the seventh round of the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft with the 145th overall selection. Stanick attended one training camp with Everett, but never signed with the organization.
He says he is looking forward to playing against the team that drafted him.
“That’s obviously going to be special. Doing it years ago was cool as well. They have a great team this year and a great crowd there. It’s going to be exciting to go back.”
The Raiders had a successful trip through the B.C. division last year recording victories in their first three games in Prince George, Victoria and Vancouver before falling to Kamloops and Kelowna to finish the trip with a 3-2 record.
Truitt says it will be an exciting trip for the team, but there will still be business at hand.
“Our guys really enjoyed that trip and we had some success on that trip and it really galvanized our guys and our togetherness. You always take a look at these trips as a great team builder, but we always put the emphasis on it’s a business trip and you got to go down there and get points. It’s a tough division, but the nice part about it is that it’s buildings that some of these guys have never been in before. It’s new scenery for them, just like it was last year in BC. We’re looking forward to it and getting into these buildings and playing great opponents. The team together, I think is the biggest thing.”
Before the Raiders cross the border, they will make a pit stop Wednesday night to take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first of four meetings between the two teams this season.
Truitt says the Raiders will look to start their trip on a positive note in the windy city.
“It’s one game at a time. If you can get conference points from a team that you’re playing against and in the race with, it’s paramount. Getting off to a good start solves a lot of problems rather than falling two or three games behind.”
Raider road trip schedule
All puck drop times are in Saskatchewan time
Wednesday, Nov. 8 @ Lethbridge 8 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 10 @ Spokane 9 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 11 @ Tri-City 9 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 14 @ Seattle 9 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 @ Everett 9 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 17 @ Portland 9 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 19 @ Wenatchee 6 p.m.