One would never know from talking to the Prince Albert Raider coaching staff that they are one of the big surprises early in the Western Hockey League season.
Despite improving to 2-0-0-1 with a 5-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre, there was a closed-door meeting with the players and when the door opened, rookie assistant coach Tim Leonard laid it on the table that anything less than 60 minutes effort each and every night is unacceptable.
“We’re not very happy with the effort tonight,” said Leonard who has yet to experience a regulation-time loss, something the Raiders did 45 times last year in finishing dead last in the WHL. “I don’t think we were ready to go. You just can’t play 18 minutes and expect to win.”
“In the third period we were moving towards the net and when we went to the net we got rewarded,” added Leonard. “It’s not a switch you can turn on and off.”
When the Raiders did find that switch, however, the result was inevitable as Prince Albert scored four times in the third period and could have had several more if not for the strong goaltending by Warrior rookie netminder Daniel Wapple.
Anthony Bardaro, Chance Braid, Shayne Gwinner, Dakota Conroy and Reid Gardiner scored for the Raiders, who led 1-0 after 20 minutes of play but were deadlocked at 1-1 entering the final period.
The goal by Gwinner was his first as a Raider since coming to Prince Albert in a trade with Moose Jaw last spring and Leonard did admit he was happy for the steady defenseman to get that marker.
“I’m happy for him to bang one home against his former team,” said Leonard.
The goals by Conroy and Gardiner were milestones as well as Conroy was playing in just his first game with the Raiders since being acquired from the Victoria Royals earlier this week while the goal by Gardiner was the first-ever scored by the 16-year-old in the WHL.
Luke Siemens, another castoff from the Warriors, stopped 25 shots in recording the victory in the Prince Albert goal while Wapple, who last year played with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blazers, faced 33 blasts.
RAIDER NOTES: Friday’s game was also the first ever in a Raider uniform for defenseman Evan Morden. The 19-year-old blueliner was acquired in a deal, along with goaltender Andy Desautels just prior to the start of the regular season, from the Everett Silvertips…Prince Albert was without defensemen Antoine Corbin and Zach Hodder as Corbin is presently auditioning at the Hamilton Bulldogs’ American Hockey League camp while Hodder is on the injured list with an upper body injury…Prince Albert product Miles Warkentine dressed for the Warriors on Friday. Warkentine is a 16-year-old forward who played last year for Leonard with the Prince Albert Mintos…The Raiders return to action on Tuesday when they will host the Red Deer Rebels. This will be the first of 13 Las Vegas Nights as the Raiders will be giving away a trip for two to Las Vegas, complete with return airfare and two nights of accommodation, on every home game played on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Fans are asked to fill out an entry form in the Johnny Bower Lobby and the winner will be announced during the third period.