Raiders open pre-season schedule tonight against the Blades
For the first time in almost six months the Prince Albert Raiders will be playing a game with some meaning when they host the Saskatoon Blades in Western Hockey League pre-season action tonight at the Art Hauser Centre.
Having finished last year with a 21-45-3-3 record and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years, the Raiders have had just training camp and practises amongst themselves in the last two weeks. Now it is time to push forward.
“Now we will be evaluating our players against different teams,” says Raiders head coach Steve Young. “It will be a lot better to identify things as we go into our cuts.”
The Raiders still have 29 players remaining in camp with two of those – Brendan Guhle and Matteo Gennaro – being 15-year-olds. They will be returned to their Midget AAA teams in Alberta after the weekend as both are too young to be playing in the WHL this season.
That leaves the team needing to make at least three, and possibly four, moves before the season opens on Sept. 21.
With three goaltenders still in camp – overage Luke Siemens, who was acquired from the Moose Jaw Warriors at the end of last season, 19-year-old veteran Cole Holowenko and 16-year-old rookie Rylan Parenteau – there will be a lot of attention being paid as to who remains with the club.
After Guhle is returned home, there will still be nine defensemen in camp so that number will have to be reduced by at least one and the same goes with the forward situation as there will be 15 left after the weekend when Gennaro heads back to Alberta. Included in that number is three 16-year-olds –Reid Gardiner, Tim Vanstone and Spencer Meyer – and although it is unlikely all three will be with the team on opening night, Young isn’t ruling anything out.
“Everybody on the ice will be in an evaluation process,” explains Young.
The overage situation right now appears to be settled as Siemens, defenseman Antoine Corbin and forward Anthony Bardaro are the only three still in camp and with WHL rules allowing just three, the Raiders do not have to worry about that quota. However, the Raiders carried just two – Justin Maylan and Kellan Tochkin – at the end of last year so there is no firm rule saying that all three will make the team.
The loss of Maylan and Tochkin does pose a problem though as they were two of the club’s offensive leaders last year and the Raiders will be looking for others to provide more offence, especially in light of where the team finished last year.
After tonight’s game, which begins at 7 p.m., the Raiders will play a return match with the Blades on Saturday in Warman. Then the club will have one more doubleheader against Swift Current next week before the regular season arrives with a home-and-home series with the Blades.