© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Veteran Prince Albert Raider netminder Cole Holowenko tries to get a better look past Mike Winther during the annual intra-squad game on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre. Team Black held on for an 8-7 victory thanks in large part to the hat-trick scored by overage winger Anthony Bardaro. The game, which attracted a couple of hundred fans, was a final evaluation opportunity for the Raiders’ coaching and scouting staffs before a dozen cuts were made bringing the roster down to 29 heading into this weekend’s first taste of Western Hockey League pre-season action when the Raiders will host the Saskatoon Blades on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Now the real work needs to be done!
After three days of main camp, where more than 40 players were auditioning their skills in an attempt to make the Prince Albert Raiders, the initial cuts have been made leaving some hard choices left for the coaches and general manager Bruno Campese.
“We have about three weeks until the season begins and we want to get down to 23 or 24 players,” said Campese on Monday after 12 players were reassigned following the annual intra-squad game on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre. “Some real tough choices are going to happen now.”
“We are in no rush,” added Campese. “We want to make the right choices for the right reasons. It is going to be a lot of fun around here for the next couple of weeks.”
The Raiders still have 29 players remaining in camp including 15-year-olds Brendan Guhle and Matteo Gennaro, who will see some action in this weekend’s pre-season series against the Saskatoon Blades before being returned to their Midget AAA teams for the season.
That leaves 27 players fighting for the 23 or 24 roster spots and Campese says that number is workable for the coaching staff as they begin regular practises today.
“It allows us to run effective and efficient practises,” says Campese. “We will be looking for players who want to compete and win on a daily basis, even in practice.”
Sent home following main camp were: defensemen Ben Verrall, Tyler Boyer, Tyler Dea and Kristjon Finnson; forwards Bobby McMann, Dylan Stewart, Dallas Miller, Adam Osczevski, Tanner Magalas, Rhett Law and Matt Lueken; goaltender Nick McBride.
Osczevski played for the Prince Albert Mintos last year and will return to the team despite having a strong camp with the Raiders. Campese said, however, that the Raiders are very impressed with the speedy forward and have put him on their 50-player protected list.
Among the players remaining with the team are a quartet of 16-year-olds – forwards Spencer Meyer, Tim Vanstone and Reid Gardiner and goaltender Rylan Parenteau. Those four will be challenging some of the veterans for spots on the team and Campese said no one’s job is safe right now although Mark McNeill, Josh Morrissey, Harrison Ruopp and Jeff Winther would appear to be untouchables.
Anthony Bardaro also appears to be in fine form and will likely be one of the three overage players with the team this year. Bardaro finished last season with a flourish after coming to Prince Albert in a deal with the Spokane Chiefs and Luke Siemens will also likely be around as a 20-year-old after the Raiders acquired the veteran goaltender from the Moose Jaw Warriors shortly after last season was finished.
The Raiders, who promised changes when last season concluded with the team finishing dead last in the Western Hockey League, have seen one alteration pay off already as separate rookie and main camps provided the coaches and scouts with a better opportunity to evaluate the talent.
“It gave us a pretty good idea out of the rookies who should move on to the main camp,” said Campese. “It gave us better choices and allowed us to get to 29 players a lot sooner.”
Prince Albert will host Saskatoon on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre with the same two teams meeting one night later in Warman. The Raiders will then have a home-and-home series with the Swift Current Broncos before the 2012-13 season kicks off on Sept. 21 when Saskatoon makes a return visit to Prince Albert.
There will be a few new faces in the line-up this year that is a certainty. It is just a matter of time now to see how many that will be.