The Prince Albert NAPA Raiders have to lay it all out on the line on Saturday if they have any hopes of being provincial pee wee champions.
The Raiders host Yorkton at 3:30 p.m. at the Kinsmen Arena and while trailing by six goals sounds like an impossible task head coach Bryan Swystun doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think it’s insurmountable,” says Swystun in assessing his club’s chances of avenging a similar fate to Yorkton in last year’s Saskatchewan Hockey Association provincial final. “We have to make things happen early and you never know what will happen.”
The NAPA Raiders have had somewhat of a Cinderella run in the post-season as they were just a .500 club in the Centre-Four Hockey League regular season.
The Raiders opened the provincial playoffs with a win over the Battlefords and then they surprised the second-place West Central squad in the next round. A victory over Warman in the northern semifinal put them up against the Saskatoon champions, but that turned out to be no contest as Prince Albert won that two-game, total-goal series 12-5.
“We preached from Day 1 that we wanted to be peaking and playing well at the right time,” notes Swystun.
That run of success came to a screeching halt in the first game of the provincial final as Yorkton skated to a convincing 10-4 victory last weekend. Still, Swystun insists the result wasn’t indicative of how his team played which gives him hope for Saturday’s game.
The Raiders, who had bowed out of the league playoffs just prior to the opening loss to Yorkton when they were defeated in the semifinals by a very skilled Lloydminster squad, have six first-year players and 12 who are playing their final game at the pee wee level this weekend.
For four of those veterans – Owen Ozar, Cody Lehner, Jake Koroluk and Brayden Dirks – it is their second year in a row having a shot at winning a provincial title and nothing would be greater than to finally come out on top.
“They’re (Yorkton) a good team, but I always liked being in the underdog position,” says Swystun.