The Prince Albert Raiders are having a tough time getting off on the right skate as they make their way through British Columbia.
Having passed the midway point of their bi-annual trek over the mountains to play B.C. Division opponents, quick starts have been nonexistent. In the three games to date, the Raiders have been outshot 49-11 in the opening 20 minutes and outscored 6-0.
“It’s been a little disappointing,” admitted Raiders’ head coach Steve Young on Sunday as the club was making its way to Tsawwassen for a ferry trip to Vancouver Island where they will play the Royals in Victoria on Tuesday. “On the road you want to get off to a good start and for whatever reason we haven’t.”
“We have to be strong mentally and work through it,” added Young.
The first-period frustration in the opening game of the journey in Prince George could be chalked up to the lengthy bus trip and an extended pre-game ceremony honouring Scott Niedermayer in Kamloops on Friday might explain the lack of legs against the Blazers, but on Saturday in Kelowna, there were no excuses.
“We understand we are not playing well and every team in this league is tough to beat,” said Young.
When Prince George outshot the Raiders 10-2 in the opening frame of Wednesday’s game, Prince Albert had goaltender Luke Siemens to thank for keeping the game scoreless.
The Raiders would rebound and win that game 3-2 against the Cougars, but on Friday in Kamloops, the Blazers scored 31 seconds into the match and never looked back outshooting Prince Albert 20-6 in the first period and building a 3-0 lead.
That 4-1 loss in Kamloops was followed by a disheartening 6-2 setback in Kelowna where the Rockets outshot the Raiders 19-3 and led 3-0 after the first period enroute to their 21st straight win at Prospera Place.
Siemens was in goal in the loss to Kamloops finishing with 37 saves while Andy Desautels got a rare start in the match against Kelowna and Young says he was the best Raider player making 38 stops.
Jonas Knutsen was the lone goal scorer in the loss to the Blazers while Austin Daae and Mark McNeill scored late goals in the setback to the Rockets making the score somewhat respectable.
With two days off before they get back to work in Victoria on Tuesday, the Raiders will have some time to figure things out. The trip concludes on Wednesday in Vancouver against the last-place Giants with the Raiders returning home for a Saturday game at the Art Hauser Centre against the Calgary Hitmen.
RAIDER NOTES: Knutsen was injured in Friday’s game against Kamloops and did not play against the Rockets. Young says the veteran import winger has an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day, but likely will not see any more action on the trip…Riley Guenther and Joey Santucci sat out both games on the weekend due to numbers with Daae having a seat in the stands on Friday before replacing Knutsen on Saturday…The pre-game ceremony in Kamloops lasted 40 minutes as the Blazers retired Niedermayer’s jersey (No. 28). Niedermayer, who played for the Blazers from 1989-92 before spending 17 years in the NHL and winning four Stanley Cups, was also presented with the WHL Alumni Award…Despite the pair of losses, the Raiders still hold a seven-point lead over the Swift Current Broncos for first place in the East Division standings. The Saskatoon Blades are 11 points back, but have a pair of games in hand…Fans are reminded that tickets are still available for the eighth annual SaskPower training for Life Power Breakfast which is slated for Mar. 19 in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre. Tom Wright, the former CEO of the Canadian Football League and current director of operations for UFC Canada, will be the guest speaker. Tickets cost $30 each or tables of eight can be purchased for $225. Proceeds from the event will go to Special Olympics Saskatchewan and the Raider Education Fund. Contact the Raider office at 764-5348 for more information.