Redden on the Raiders: Stallard thrives, Sapego arrives

By Trevor Redden
October 12, 2017 - 5:00pm

Redden on the Raiders is an inside look from the voice of the Raiders, Trevor Redden. It is a mix of information, statistics, opinions, and stories from behind the scenes throughout the Raider season. Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments via Trevor's email or twitter at the bottom of the article.

Looking back at recent history, it takes a .500 win percentage to secure a spot in the WHL playoffs.

In the 2016-17 season, every single team with a winning percentage above .500 made the playoffs. Conversely, only the Calgary Hitmen (.486) made it into the postseason with a winning percentage below the mark.

Through six games, the Prince Albert Raiders are right on track with a 3-3 record. Although it’s far too early to make any projections, the team is on a better course than it was a year ago as the Raiders started 2-4-0 through the first six games last fall.

Coming off a weekend split against Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, the Raiders now look ahead to a very tough schedule with four games in five days against Regina, Brandon, and Vancouver.

My thoughts this week:

Sapego arrives

The Raiders claimed import defenceman Sergei Sapego from the Tri-City Americans via import waivers this week, filling their second import spot beside Vojtech Budik. Sapego joins the team at a good time, as the Raiders will be without Brayden Pachal this weekend due to a three-game suspension. The suspension comes after a five-minute slashing penalty on Saturday night in Medicine Hat.

Sapego is a relative unknown in the WHL, having played just three games with the Americans after being selected with the 96th pick of the 2017 import draft this spring. The 6’0”, 170 lbs defenceman fell victim to a numbers game in Tri City, with Roman Kalinichenko and Juuso Valimaki occupying the two import spots. In three games with the Americans this season, Sapego produced two assists. Last season, the 18-year-old appeared with his home country of Belarus at the U18 World Championships, scoring two points in seven games.

“I was kind of shocked and full of mixed emotions, but that’s hockey,” Sapego said when asked about moving from Tri City to Prince Albert. “I like it a lot here. The guys have really accepted me well, so I’m having fun here. I love it.”

Arriving in town late Wednesday, Sapego practiced with his new team for the first time on Thursday afternoon. The new Raider commented he knew very little about Prince Albert, but was excited about the opportunity to continue his WHL career.

Positive reviews from Medicine Hat

Ahead of last Saturday’s game, Medicine Hat Tigers Head Coach and General Manager Shaun Clouston had some positive things to say about the Raiders as he reflected on the previous weekend’s game at the Art Hauser Centre.

“Give Prince Albert a lot of credit, they put lots of pressure on us and took away options, and really backchecked hard,” Clouston said. “If we weren’t ready to move the puck for a second or two, the options really closed off so I think that’s going to be key is getting our feet moving north and getting the puck moving better.”

Once again, the Raiders limited Medicine Hat’s chances on Saturday night, while Curtis Meger had the answer for all but one of the 26 shots the Tigers put on net in the 6-1 win.

Stallard shines

Heading into Saturday’s game, Raiders forward Jordy Stallard had scored three points in a game on five occasions throughout his WHL career. In a single game, he doubled his single-game mark with a six-point outing against the Tigers.

“It felt great. I need to have puck control and I need to contribute any way I can,” Stallard said. “Lucky enough that night I was able to do that. We were coming off a not so good game in Lethbridge and we knew we had to win that game and we came out strong and it ended up well.”

The pre-game message from Head Coach Marc Habscheid was the top players needed to lead the way, and that’s what ended up happening as Stallard along with line mates Cole Fonstad and Parker Kelly combined for 12 points on the night.

“[Habscheid] talked to us before the game and he definitely challenged us. We knew our line didn’t play good in Lethbridge so we needed to take a step up and take charge, and I think we did that.”

Stallard opened the scoring with a power play marker late in the first period, and proceeded to assist on the next five Raider goals.

Between the pipes

As of Thursday, there was no update regarding the status of goaltenders Ian Scott or Nicholas Sanders, who both missed last weekend's games. Curtis Meger started both games in Alberta, with 16-year-old Brett Balas serving as his backup.

Although Meger has now started three straight games, I can’t imagine he can carry the mail for four games over five days this weekend. Somebody will need to pick up at least one start, but at this point I don’t know who it will be.

The week ahead

Friday vs. Regina (3-4-1), 7 p.m. (XFM)

Saturday at Brandon (5-2-0-1), 6:30 p.m. (CKBI)

Sunday at Brandon (5-2-0-1), 3 p.m. (CKBI)

Tuesday vs. Vancouver (2-3-0-1), 7 p.m. (CKBI)

 

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