The Prince Albert Raiders are perfect against Alberta opponents this year, but they know this weekend’s trip to the west will be different and difficult.
The Raiders have won all five meetings against teams from the Wild Rose province including all three on a swing through Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge in early October.
This weekend they are in Lethbridge on Friday, Edmonton on Saturday and Red Deer on Sunday and Raiders’ head coach Steve Young says the team has to be ready, because everyone will be better prepared for them.
“We have got to be ready to play and by that I mean every time the puck is dropped we have to be ready,” said Young prior to the team leaving for Lethbridge on Thursday. “We’re 20 games in (to the season) now so every team is playing better.”
Indeed they are.
When Prince Albert last played in Lethbridge – a 4-1 Prince Albert win – the Hurricanes were struggling out of the gate, but since then are one of the hottest teams in the league, winning seven of their last nine games, to move into a tie with the Raiders for third place overall in the Eastern Conference standings.
The defending Western Hockey League champion Edmonton Oil Kings have also turned things around as they have lost just five times all year with two of those coming against the Raiders. Edmonton, who is tied for the conference lead with the Calgary Hitmen, has strengthened their defence with the addition of David Musil in a trade with the Vancouver Giants and they have goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who was spectacular in Team WHL’s 1-0 shootout win over Team Russia in the Subway Super Series played on Wednesday in Vancouver.
The final stop of the trip will be another test as the Rebels announced on Wednesday that head coach Jesse Wallin was fired and that team owner/president/general manager Brent Sutter is taking over the coaching duties on an interim basis. Sutter added former Kelowna Rocket head coach Jeff Truitt as one of his assistants and to further shake up the team, he sent overage forward Charles Inglis home to wait for a trade. Inglis was leading the team in scoring with 11 goals, but Sutter indicated he was a bad influence in the dressing room and needed to be moved.
“We did some good things on that last trip,” admitted Young. “It is not going to be easy, but we have to have a good trip. By good I mean we have to be in every game and compete.”
RAIDER NOTES: The Raiders have lost their last three road games by a combined score of 17-2…Raider captain Mark McNeill will join the team in Lethbridge today after playing for Team WHL on Wednesday and Thursday. Originally scheduled to play in just Wednesday’s game, McNeill was picked as an injury replacement for Thursday’s game in Victoria after his strong performance on Wednesday, which included scoring one of the shootout goals…Reid Gardiner could return to action this weekend after missing the last month with an upper-body injury. The 16-year-old has been practising with the team and is close to returning to the active roster…the Raiders will still have two more games on the road after this weekend – next Wednesday in Moose Jaw and Friday in Brandon – before returning home on Nov. 24 to take on the Wheat Kings.