The Prince Albert Raiders want to send a couple of messages tonight when they take on the Kootenay Ice in Western Hockey League action at the Art Hauser Centre.
First, the Raiders want to show the Ice why they are the East Division leaders as Kootenay has not seen that from Prince Albert the last two times the clubs faced each other.
The Ice, who have been mired in the Central Division basement for the entire season, defeated the Raiders 5-4 in a shootout in Prince Albert just before Christmas and 10 days before that they recorded a 3-2 decision in Cranbrook. Up until then the Ice had only posted a handful of wins with Prince Albert having won the first meeting 5-3 back in October.
Since Christmas, however, they have been one of the hottest teams winning seven straight prior to a loss against the Spokane Chiefs last weekend.
Second, the Raiders want to let their fans know that they will be missed as the club leaves on an extended six-game road trip after tonight‚Äôs contest with a stop in Brandon on Friday preceding a swing through the B.C. Division.
‚ÄúThis is our foundation, we always want to be strong at home,‚ÄĚ says Raiders‚Äô head coach Steve Young. ‚ÄúEvery team enjoys these types of trips. There will be good times and bad times ‚Äď we just have to stick together.‚ÄĚ
A wicket flu bug was going through the team at the end of last week and during the weekend, but Young says despite some sniffles and coughs it appears everybody is healthy for tonight and the upcoming trip.
One player that won‚Äôt be available tonight is defenseman Josh Morrissey as the 17-year-old is in Halifax competing in the Top Prospects Game. Morrissey was listed as the 11th best North American skater in the Central Scouting Bureau‚Äôs mid-season report that was released this week and he also laid claim to the fourth best defenseman that is eligible for the NHL draft this summer in New Jersey.
Two other Raiders also made the comprehensive list with Jayden Hart coming in at 139 and Carson Perreaux at 175. Hart, who was acquired by the Raiders on a New Year‚Äôs Day trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers, has four points in six games with Prince Albert while Perreaux continues to improve each and every game and has eight goals and five assists to show for his efforts.
After tonight, the Raiders will not be back at the Art Hauser Centre until Feb. 2 when they will host the Calgary Hitmen for the first time.
RAIDER NOTES: Tonight is another Las Vegas Night with fans over the age of 21 years eligible to enter a draw for a trip for two to the gambling Mecca. The trip includes return airfare and two nights of accommodation‚Ä¶Evan Morden played in his 150th WHL game on Saturday when the Raiders beat the Red Deer Rebels in overtime. Tonight, Shane Danyluk will reach that milestone and should Harrison Ruopp play in every game from now until the swing through B.C. concludes, the contest in Vancouver on Jan. 30 will be his 200th career game. Ruopp could also be facing his younger brother Sam when the Raiders are in Prince George early next week as the younger Ruopp has been with the Cougars since Christmas as that team deals with a number of injuries and player defections.