Last year, the Prince Albert Raiders couldn’t buy a win. This year it seems they can’t lose.
The Raiders ran their winning streak to six games and improved their overall record to 6-0-0-1 with a 5-3 victory over the Kootenay Ice in Western Hockey League action on Sunday.
“It’s been very good,” says Raiders’ head coach Steve Young. “At the beginning of the year we structured everything day-to-day and pushed everybody to work hard.”
“We went on the road with the mentality that we have to be disciplined and maintain our structure,” added Young. “It’s not important how much you win.”
But winning is nice and the win on Sunday was Prince Albert’s third straight on a current four-game road trip - and fourth overall away from the Art Hauser Centre. Last year, the Raiders never recorded their fourth road win until Dec. 27 and if Prince Albert can complete the trip with a win tonight in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes, they will be another month ahead of last year’s pace.
There are many reasons for the impressive turnaround of the Raiders, but a key component has been the play of those players that have been acquired through trades – especially since the season started.
Andy Desautels, an 18-year-old goaltender acquired from the Everett Silvertips just before the season egan, got his first start on Sunday and he was exceptional in turning aside 26 of 29 Kootenay shots. Desautels has been the back-up goaltender to another player acquired in the offseason, Luke Siemens. The 20-year-old Siemens has been nothing short of brilliant in getting the Raiders out of the gate quickly and putting Prince Albert atop the WHL standings.
“It was his (Desautels) first opportunity and I thought he responded very well,” said Young. “The players played very well in front of him too.”
Davis Vandane was just brought in from Spokane on Friday and in his first game with the Raiders against Kootenay, scored a key goal to help Prince Albert build an early 4-0 advantage.
Dakota Conroy, Evan Morden and Shayne Gwinner are other players that have been added via the trade route and all have had prominent roles in the Raiders’ early success.
Shane Danyluk, with two goals, Sawyer Lange and Leon Draisaitl also scored for Prince Albert on Sunday. For Lange and Draisaitl it was their first goals of the season with Lange’s marker equalling his production from last year when he played in 58 games as a 17-year-old rookie and Draisaitl’s tally was his first regular-season goal in the WHL. Draisaitl was the second player chosen overall in the Canadian Hockey League import draft in May and despite leading the Raiders in scoring in the pre-season, the Cologne, Germany product had yet to find the back of the net in the regular season.
RAIDER NOTES: Following tonight’s game in Lethbridge, the Raiders will return home to take on the Portland Winter Hawks on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. Prince Albert will then be back on the road on Saturday for a trip to Moose Jaw…Not dressed for the Raiders on Sunday were Mike Winther, Chance Braid, Zach Hodder and Gwinner. Winther has been nursing a sore groin but is expected to play tonight while Hodder remains on the sidelines with an upper-body injury suffered in the second game of the season. Gwinner and Braid were victims of numbers with Gwinner sitting out to make room for Vandane’s debut. With Antoine Corbin still at the Hamilton Bulldogs camp, the addition of Vandane gives Prince Albert four overage players on the roster. Should Corbin stay with the American Hockey League team, then the picture will become clearer as each team is only allowed to carry three 20-year-olds. If Corbin is returned, then the Raiders will have 14 days to make a decision on which of the overage group (Siemens, Anthony Bardaro, Vandane and Corbin) will have to be released.