© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
A number of members of the Prince Albert Raiders, along with players from the Mintos and A&W Bears, took time away from the ice on Wednesday to help the Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association celebrate its annual “Welcome Back to Hockey Day.” The players participated in some road hockey action with youngsters and were available to answer questions from the fans. Several members of the minor hockey association’s board of directors, including newly appointed president Billy Hoko and technical director James Mays, helped with the cooking of food. Proceeds from the event went to the minor hockey association to help offset costs. Shown in the photo is rookie Raider defenseman Tyler Dea tending net while another rookie Raider blueliner, Brendan Guhle is off to the right waiting for a rebound.
The Prince Albert Raiders are a tired group.
They are not tired in the physical or mental sense, but restless with all of the idle time.
Having opened the Western Hockey League season with a pair of wins over the Saskatoon Blades last weekend, the club is anxious to get back to playing games and a stretch where they play five times in eight nights begins tonight when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
“We’re just continuing to work on our systems,” says associate coach Dave Manson. “We had a good week to do that now we just have to be prepared and ready to play.”
Along with the rest after the quick start to the season the Raiders got good news on three different fronts this week.
First, defenseman Josh Morrissey was returned to the club on Tuesday after the 18-year-old had an extended audition with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. Morrissey will certainly add more offensive power to the club that scored 12 times in the season-opening sweep of the Blades. The Calgary product will also solidify a defensive corp. that features four rookies.
The second bit of good news was that defenseman Dylan Busenius would not receive any further punishment for a boarding major he received in the home opener last Saturday. Moments after scoring his first goal of the season, Busenius was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a check he applied to Saskatoon import Nikita Scherbak.
Finally, the Raiders were elevated to the No. 3 spot in the Canadian Hockey League rankings following the successful opening weekend. They are now the highest rated team from the WHL on that list and they are in that lofty position for the first time in almost two decades.
The ranking is actually somewhat meaningless this early in the season as all teams are still piecing together their final roster. That includes the Wheat Kings, who are also 2-0-0-0 after sweeping the Moose Warriors last weekend.
“Those two games against Saskatoon are done,” said Manson. “Brandon is a totally different team and they are 2-0 too.”
The Wheat Kings, like the Raiders, also have a bunch of new faces as their line-up is sprinkled with seven rookies and they are still waiting for the return of team captain Ryan Pulock from the New York Islanders’ camp.
The biggest change for Brandon is behind the bench as team owner/general manager Kelly McCrimmon takes over the coaching duties after the Wheat Kings let Cory Clouston and Dwayne Gylywoychuk go after one season each. Clouston is now the head coach of the Raiders and faces his former team for the first time tonight.
McCrimmon is in his third tour of duty as the team’s head coach and so far he appears to have pushed the right buttons as the Wheat Kings outscored Moose Jaw 9-4 in the season-opening sweep. Taylor Cooper leads the team with four goals while Beauval product Eric Roy has four assists.
Tonight’s game is the first of a rare doubleheader at the Art Hauser Centre as the Raiders and Wheat Kings will play again on Saturday at 7 p.m.
RAIDER NOTES: Prior to tonight’s opening face-off McCrimmon will join his parents at centre ice in accepting his late brother Brad’s honour of being included in the Raiders’ Wall of Honour. Brad McCrimmon played with the Raiders from 1974-76 before moving on to play with the Wheat Kings for three seasons. Brad McCrimmon would then play in over 1,000 NHL games and win a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989. He tragically lost his life in a plane crash two years ago while coaching a team in Russia…Also going onto the Wall of Honour are long-time volunteers Jim Bristowe and Doug Winterton…Busenius reached the 250-game plateau of his career last weekend…Raider forward Chance Braid celebrated his 19th birthday on Thursday…The Raiders have reassigned 16-year-old forward Dylan Stewart to the Canadian Athletic Club Canadians of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League leaving Prince Albert with 24 players on the roster…The NHL Central Scouting’s 2014 players to watch list released this week included a pair of Raiders. Leon Draisaitl, a German import who was named the Eastern Conference’s rookie of the year last season, is labelled an “A” skater while Prince Albert’s other import, Tomas Andrlik from the Czech Republic, is a “C” skater.