Raiders prep for No. 1 Oil Kings in opening round

Andrew
Andrew Schopp
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In an interview on Feb. 13, Dakota Conroy gave The Daily Herald something of a guarantee that the Raiders would make it to the post-season.

With a 5-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday at the Enmax Centrium, Conroy and the Raiders made good on that promise, punching their ticket to the WHL playoffs for a second straight season.

With the eighth and final playoff spot secured, the Raiders will take on the defending Eastern Conference champion Edmonton Oil Kings, who for the third-straight season enter the playoffs as a No. 1 seed.  

Loaded with talent and one of the league’s top goaltenders, the Raiders must acknowledge the Oil Kings prowess, but not put them on a pedestal.  

“They finished first for a reason,” Morrissey said in a telephone interview from Red Deer on Wednesday. “We respect their ability and understand their strengths but at the same time we can’t go in fearing them.”

The Raiders were blasted 9-1 in their first meeting with the Oil Kings this season on Oct. 4. Morrissey agreed however, that the Raiders roster has changed significantly since then.   

Prior to the WHL trade deadline, the Raiders brought in a pair of players who have been instrumental in getting the team into the playoffs. 

“We’ve made some trades, acquired some players (since Oct. 4),” Morrissey said of wingers Collin Valcourt, Calder Brooks and injured defenceman Graeme Craig. “Those guys have been huge for us coming down the stretch.” 

In a controversial move, the Oil Kings scratched most of their top forwards from the lineup for their final regular season game against the Rebels, just about paving the way for Tuesday’s one-game playoff. 

Griffin Reinhart, Curtis Lazar and Henrik Samuelsson were all out of the lineup for Sunday’s tilt at Rexall Place, recharging their batteries for the opening round of the playoffs. 

“They have a pretty good group of forwards,” Morrissey said of the Oil Kings potent offence. “We have to be physical on them, keep them from getting those second and third opportunities.” 

Also not in the lineup for the Oil Kings on Sunday, was backstop Tristan Jarry, who finished the regular season the league’s leader in goals-against-average, wins and shutouts. 

After vanquishing Rebels keeper Patrik Bartosak, a thorn in the Raiders side throughout the season on Tuesday, the strategy for getting the puck past another elite goaltender remains the same. 

“The same story goes, you have to make it tough on those goalies,” Morrissey said. “When the goalie is fighting to see around traffic and to make that second or third save, it’s going to wear them down. We have to get lots of traffic and bodies to the net and jam away.”

When asked how he as captain preps the team’s young guns for playoff hockey, Morrissey said the last few weeks of action have just about primed them for the experience. 

“Really we’ve been playing playoff hockey here the last month or so,” Morrissey said. “Our last two games have been as pressure filled as you can get really. It’s given us confidence playing in those ‘game seven’ type games and hopefully we can carry that into the series.”

Rather than return home to Prince Albert, the Raiders will stand pat in Red Deer before making their way to Edmonton to take on the Oil Kings on Saturday at Rexall Place. 

2014 WHL Playoffs -- Edmonton Oil Kings VS Prince Albert Raiders

Who’s hot?

P.A. C Leon Draisaitl -- In his NHL draft year, the German import became the first Raider since Steve Kelly in 1996 to hit the 100-point plateau, finishing the season with 105. To close out a career season, Draisaitl posted 19 points in eight games in March, including a trio of four point nights.

P.A. LW Collin Valcourt -- The overage winger brought in at the WHL trade deadline has made a big impact at just the right time. Tallying the game-winner in Tuesday’s one-game playoff with the Rebels, Valcourt heads into the post-season riding a five-game goal streak.   

P.A. G Nick McBride -- A major reason the Raiders are even in the playoffs to begin with, McBride lost just one game in March, posting a goals-against-average of 2.73. Assuming the starter role as a 17-year-old rookie, McBride has thrived under pressure in “must-win” situations, finishing the season with a record of 12-7-2.

EDM G Tristan Jarry -- With 63 games played this season, Jarry enters the playoffs as one the league’s top goaltenders. Jarry finished the regular season leading the league in goals-against-average, wins and shutouts, posting a record of 44-14-3. 

EDM C Curtis Lazar -- Before he was scratched on Sunday, Lazar posted a four-point night in his last regular season game, capping an 11-point March. The Ottawa Senators prospect leads the team in scoring against the Raiders this season with six goals and three assists.

EDM C Henrik Samuelsson -- Also posting a four-point night in his last regular season game was Samuelsson, who enters the playoffs riding a three-game point streak. With 13 points in March, the Swedish import finished the season ninth in league scoring with 95 points.

Season series

The Raiders and Oil Kings split their season series at two games apiece, with neither team securing victory at home. 

Oct. 4 - Edmonton 9 @ Prince Albert 1

Oct. 15 - Prince Albert 3 @ Edmonton 2 (Shootout)

Dec 11 - Edmonton 7 @ Prince Albert 5

Feb. 12 - Prince Albert 4 @ Edmonton 3

Head-to-Head scoring -- top-five

Edmonton

C Curtis Lazar -- 6G, 3A

C Henrik Samuelsson -- 3G, 3A

C Brett Pollock -- 1G, 5A

LW Mitch Moroz -- 3G, 2A

D Cody Corbett -- 1G, 3A 

Prince Albert

C Dakota Conroy -- 4G, 5A

C Leon Draisaitl -- 3G, 5A

LW Collin Valcourt -- 4G, 2A

D Josh Morrissey -- 0G, 5A

D Sawyer Lange -- 0G, 3A

Playoff schedule

March 22 - Prince Albert @ Edmonton

March 23 - Prince Albert @ Edmonton

March 25 - Edmonton @ Prince Albert

March 26 - Edmonton @ Prince Albert

March 29 - Prince Albert @ Edmonton *

March 30 - Edmonton @ Prince Albert *

April 1 - Prince Albert @ Edmonton *

*If necessary

Injuries

Edmonton: C Brett Pollock, D Blake Orban

Prince Albert: D Graeme Craig

Tale of the tape - 2014 regular season

Edmonton/Prince Albert

50-19-3/35-32-5

GF: 290/243

GA: 179/258

PP%: 19.6/24.9

PK%: 85.3/76

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