The Saskatoon Blades got to see the real Prince Albert Raiders on Friday night and they found out early it isn’t going to be fun playing them this season.
One week ago when the two rivals met in the final tune-up of the Western Hockey League pre-season the Blades dominated a rookie-laden Raider line-up and won in convincing fashion 7-2.
On Friday at Credit Union Centre, in the regular-season opener for both teams, the Raiders iced a veteran squad and by the 10-minute mark of the first period they had built a 4-1 advantage. Prince Albert added two more in the second and then held off the Blades to post a 6-1 victory and set the stage for their home opener tonight against Saskatoon at the Art Hauser Centre.
Jayden Hart, with two goals, Dakota Conroy, Reid Gardiner, Mike Winther and Gage Quinney scored for the Raiders while Colin Valcourt replied for the Blades. Winther also collected a pair of assists to go with his shorthanded effort.
Cole Cheveldave, who was acquired from the Kamloops Blazers in the offseason, made 35 saves to pick up his first win as a Raider. Alex Moodie was chased from the Saskatoon goal after 40 minutes of play with Troy Trombley finishing the game. Together the Saskatoon tandem was tested 38 times.
The game also marked the debut of Cory Clouston as the new head coach of the Raiders. Clouston, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Thursday, picked up his 249th career WHL victory with the win on Friday. Clouston was head coach of the Kootenay Ice for six seasons before moving on to the professional ranks with the Ottawa Senators organization. Clouston most recently had one year on the bench of the Brandon Wheat Kings before joining the Raiders in June.
Last year the Raiders were 7-0-0-1 to start the season, but a disappointing second half and first-round playoff sweep by the Red Deer Rebels resulted in the coaching change. The Raiders will look to build off Friday’s win in front of what is expected to be a sellout crowd at the Art Hauser Centre tonight.
RAIDER NOTES: Not dressed for the Raiders on Friday were Tyler Dea, Lance Yaremchuk, Darcy Zaharichuk and Dylan Stewart. All are first-year players with several likely to be inserted in the line-up tonight. Also not with the team was defenseman Josh Morrissey who is still with the Winnipeg Jets. Morrissey, who was picked 13th overall by the Jets in June, has had a solid camp and no word has been given as to when, or if, he will be returned to the Raiders…After tonight’s game, the Raiders will have a week off before they host the Brandon Wheat Kings in back-to-back games next weekend. Prior to the Friday night contest the newest inductees onto the Raider Wall of Honour will be acknowledged. Included in that list is former player Brad McCrimmon who tragically passed away two years ago when his team plane crashed and killed everybody on board shortly after for departing for a game in Russia. Brandon head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon will be there with his parents to accept the honour on behalf of Brad. Also going onto the wall will be long-time volunteers Jim Bristowe and Doug Winterton.