At almost every level he has played the game, Sawyer Lange has worked his way into a bigger role.
That is why his hometown Prince Albert Raiders chose him in the fourth round of the 2009 Western Hockey League bantam draft and true to form, Lange is filling bigger shoes in his sophomore season.
âDefinitely the confidence has come up this year a lot,â says the 18-year-old defenseman. âIâm getting a lot of opportunities to play in all situations.â
Lange played in 58 games with the Raiders last year and scored one goal and added eight assists. He spent a lot of time watching from the bench and learning from the veterans and now it is time for him to show the coaching staff he has been a good student.
In the first 10 games this year, Lange has scored three goals and added one assist, but he is playing a regular shift and seeing plenty of time on the special teams. With Zach Hodder being injured in the second game of the season and Antoine Corbin leaving the team to play professional hockey in Hamilton, his role has grown even more since the start of the season.
âI was kind of hoping I could bring some offense into this year,â said Lange. âI had a good camp and pre-season and wanted to carry it over into the regular season.â
His improved play was one reason why the Raiders exploded out of the gate posting a 7-0-0-1 record in their first eight games. Although the club has struggled in its last two outings â 5-2 loss to Portland and 9-0 beating by Moose Jaw â he knows the club is for real and will rebound, beginning tonight when the Tri-Cities Americans make their only visit of the season to the Art Hauser Centre.
âWe know how we can play and we know how we can be a good team,â says Lange.
An added incentive for Lange tonight is to play against his good friend Tyson Dallman. The pair were teammates throughout their minor hockey days in Prince Albert and spent two seasons together with the Prince Albert Mintos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Lange says he is looking forward to playing against Dallman.
âWeâre actually best buddies and keep in touch with each other,â says Lange. âWe have never played together at this level because last year when we were down there (Kennewick, Wash.) he was injured. It will be fun.â
Dallman just recently returned to the Americansâ line-up after missing almost a month with a concussion he suffered in a pre-season game. He recovered in time to make the trip out east and so far the Americans have been perfect on their trek through the division, beating Brandon 4-3 and Moose Jaw 5-0.
RAIDER NOTES: Another lucky fan will win a trip to Las Vegas during tonightâs game as every home game played on a Tuesday and Wednesday this season will feature a draw for a trip for two. The prize includes return airfare from Saskatoon and two nights accommodationâŠTonightâs game is the first of seven straight home games for the Raiders. The club plays nine of its next 10 at the Art Hauser Centre before embarking on a six-game road trip.