© Herald Photo by Perry Bergson
Prince Albert Raider netminder Cole Cheveldave keeps the puck in front of him during action from Saturday's 4-2 Western Hockey League win at the Art Hauser Centre. Cheveldave made 27 saves in helping the Raiders win their fourth straight game to start the season.
Not everyone is happy with the Prince Albert Raiders’ perfect start to the Western Hockey League season.
Shortly after the Raiders improved to 4-0-0-0 with a 4-2 triumph over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre, rumours started to circulate that overage defenseman Evan Morden had left the team.
Morden, who was scratched from Saturday’s line-up, had appeared in the club’s first three games and collected one assist while posting a plus-three rating. On Sunday, the Raiders issued a short statement that Morden had returned to his home in Swan River, Man., to ponder his hockey future.
Morden’s departure certainly doesn’t take away from the inspiring start the Raiders have had to the season, but it does raise some questions such as: why would he leave and who will the club get as a third overage player if they indeed decide to fill that position.
Rookie Mackenzie Stewart was inserted on the blueline in place of Morden for Saturday’s game and 18-year-old rookie defenseman Tyler Dea has yet to dress for the team early in the season.
Raider head coach Cory Clouston’s comment, “You grow as a team when you play in games like this,” has a tinge of irony to it in light of Morden’s departure, but at the time Clouston was summarizing how the Raiders regrouped from Friday’s effort where they almost blew a 6-1 lead before hanging on to win 8-6 in the first game of a weekend doubleheader against the Wheat Kings.
Saturday’s game was certainly the polar opposite of the opening match-up between the East Division rivals as strong defensive play coupled with solid goaltending led to an exciting finish, which again drips with irony, as Dylan Busenius’s game-winning tally was reminiscent of a pinball rather than a set play as his shot from the point glanced off Brandon defenseman Colton Waltz’s skate and past netminder Jordan Papirny with under four minutes to play.
Then, like in Friday’s game, Carson Perreaux sealed the win against his hometown team as the Brandon native collected his fourth goal of the weekend with an empty-net marker.
“Both teams probably had very similar game plans,” said Clouston. “You have to create your breaks and both teams had good scoring chances. It’s nice to be able to win games that are close.”
Craig Leverton and Leon Draisaitl also scored for the Raiders, who twice had to overcome one-goal Brandon leads on goals by Richard Nejezchleb and Rihards Bukarts.
Raider defenseman Josh Morrissey collected an assist to give him four points in his two games back with the Raiders after being reassigned by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets last week. Morrissey, who was appointed as the team’s captain (Draisaitl, Busenius and Shane Danyluk are the alternates) prior to the weekend series says he is impressed with the way the team is playing and being coached.
“I really like our skill level,” noted Morrissey. “We have a really good group of players and a good group of guys off the ice.”
“Cory (Clouston) is great,” added Morrissey. “He is very detailed and to the point. There are no grey areas.”
RAIDER NOTES: Papirny and Raider netminder Cole Cheveldave each made 27 stops on Saturday…The Raiders sat Darcy Zaharichuk, Lance Yaremchuk and Tyler Dea for the fourth straight game…Morden’s departure leaves the Raiders with 23 players in camp…Nine-year-old Kara Petit gave a brilliant performance of “O Canada” prior to the opening face-off…The Raiders return to action on Wednesday when they will host the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels, who swept Prince Albert in the first round of last spring’s playoffs, are 3-1-0-0 after their first four games as they suffered their first loss – 4-1 in Calgary – on Sunday.