Raiders to welcome Wheat Kings for a pair of games

Herald File Photo. Linesmen Troy Semenchuk drops a puck between Brandon Wheat Kings forward Rylen Roersma and Prince Albert Raiders forward Turner McMillen during WHL action at the Art Hauser Centre earlier this season.

With just 13 games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Prince Albert Raiders are firmly set in the race for a playoff spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Raiders will welcome their division rival Brandon Wheat Kings for a pair of games at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday and Saturday night.

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says Prince Albert will need to come out of the gate strong to take control of the game on home ice.

“We got to play with urgency and manage the puck well. Discipline comes into it. We gotta be able to carry the play and we’ve got to be able to skate with these guys and close them down because they’ve got some real talented forwards. They’re a good team and we’ve got to bring our level up again.”

Prince Albert and Brandon have met a total of four times so far this season with the Wheat Kings winning three of the four contests. The most recent meeting between the two sides was a 7-3 Raider win at the Art Hauser Centre on Feb. 10.

“There is familiarity there, but on the other hand, we know what they are all about.” Truitt explains. “They know what we are all about and it’s whoever is going to do the best right now and minimize mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. They usually come down to one or two plays a game and that’s what it’s going to come down to in my mind.”

Prince Albert is coming into the game with momentum after recording a pair of wins on their recent southern Alberta road trip, defeating the Medicine Hat Tigers 2-1 in a shootout and the Lethbridge Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime after scoring two goals in the final minute of regulation.

Truitt says the Raiders are feeling confident after the road trip, coming home with four points

“Winning the game in the ways that we won in Medicine Hat in overtime against a very potent offensive team. In Lethbridge, they got the momentum early, but we showed the resolve of coming back and winning in a game that might have looked a little bit out of hand at times. Our guys stuck with it, stuck with a plan, they were patient. When the time came, we scored on opportunities because of their miscues and that’s what we need to do here. We need to continue to do that as these games get more and more important.”

Only four points separate the Raiders and Wheat Kings in the WHL’s Eastern Conference standings. Brandon currently sits in sixth place with a record of 27-22-5-1, good enough for 60 points. Prince Albert has posted a 26-25-1-3 record and 56 points in the standings.

If the Raiders were to win both meetings and Brandon were to also lose their Friday night contest in Saskatoon, the two sides would be tied heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

Truitt says the Raiders will need contributions from up and down the lineup in order to pull even with the Wheat Kings in the standings.

“When these opportunities arise, you’ve got to be able to take advantage of it. We can look in and say to ourselves that if everything goes well, we can be tied with them. They’ve got a game in between with Saskatoon. The fact of the matter is we’ve got to play well at a high level. Everybody’s got to pitch in and do things that we need to do to be successful. It’s proven that in the past, we’ve got to continue.”

After this weekend, Brandon and Prince Albert will conclude the season series with two more meetings at Westoba Place in the month of March.

Puck drops between the Raiders and Wheat Kings at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Art Hauser Centre.