The Prince Albert Raiders are looking like an old car: the rust is showing, moving parts are ceasing and oil is leaking.
Bumps on the road are causing the car to sputter and the engine warning light is flashing and can’t be turned off.
The latest bump was a 4-1 setback in Brandon on Wednesday against the last-place Wheat Kings leaving the Raiders looking for a good mechanic as they limp into the final weekend of the Western Hockey League season.
“I thought as a group when Brandon got some confidence we just sat back,” said Raiders’ head coach Steve Young after his troops suffered their sixth straight loss and 21st out of 32 games since the calendar turned to 2013. “As soon as the momentum changed we didn’t respond.”
“When you lose as many as we have recently you begin to wonder if it is going to happen again,” added Young.
Jason Swyripa gave the Wheat Kings a 1-0 first period lead and Richard Nejezchleb increased that margin to 2-0 in the middle session before Jonas Knutsen got the Raiders on the board.
Jens Meilleur restored that two-goal cushion before the second period was over and Colton Walz completed the scoring in the final frame.
Luke Siemens appeared in his 64th game for the Raiders turning aside 30 of 34 shots while Corbin Boes was tested 26 times in the Brandon goal.
It doesn’t get much easier for Prince Albert as they complete the season with games against the Saskatoon Blades on Friday and Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre. Saskatoon has already clinched first place in the East Division standings, but need to win both games against the Raiders if they hope to carry the No. 2 seeding into the second round. The Blades, who will have the No. 2 seed in the opening round as a result of finishing first in the East Division, trail the Calgary Hitmen by three points with each team having two games to play.
“We have two games left to play and we need a lot of good things to happen,” said Young. “We have to play the way we know we can.”
If the season ended today, Prince Albert would be facing the Red Deer Rebels in the first round of the playoffs. With the Swift Current Broncos just two points back of the Raiders and the Medicine Hat Tigers another pair in arrears, Prince Albert could slip as far as seventh in the conference standings which would mean a date with the Blades in the opening round.
It’s time for a major overhaul and the mechanics will be busy getting the Raiders ready for the playoffs, something the team has only been involved in once in the last five years.
RAIDER NOTES: Not dressed on Wednesday were Riley Guenther, Tim Vanstone and Austin Daae as all were healthy scratches. Prince Albert has also brought in Brendan Guhle and Matteo Gennaro for the remainder of the season. Both were early picks in last year’s WHL bantam draft and have been added to the club since their regular Midget AAA teams have been eliminated from the playoffs…Friday’s game against the Blades will be broadcast live on Shaw Cable…Saturday’s game is sponsored by CTV and one fan will win a flat-screen television. The SPCA will also be at the game with numerous pets being on display during one of the intermissions…Season ticket holders are reminded they have until Sunday to purchase their playoff packages so that they can secure their seats for the post-season. All season tickets not booked by Sunday will be released to the public.