What a weekend it’s shaping up to be.
The Prince Albert Raiders have done some damage over the last month, putting themselves on the cusp of reclaiming a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Riding a run of six straight games with at least a point, the Raiders now sit three points back of rival Saskatoon Blades for the final wildcard spot with two games in hand. Beyond Saskatoon, the Regina Pats sit in the top wildcard position with a seven-point edge on Prince Albert, but the Raiders currently hold three games in hand.
By the end of action on Saturday night, the Raiders could be as high as one point up on Saskatoon and three back of Regina, or as far back as five points from Saskatoon and nine from Regina.
With 22 games remaining on the schedule, every game is going to have a playoff-like intensity from here on out.
My thoughts this week:
Great job by the Raiders putting this video together. I don't think people realize how much the team feeds off the crowd at the Art Hauser Centre.
— Prince Albert Raiders (@PARaidersHockey) February 1, 2018
Not only do the players need the support on the ice, the team needs the support off the ice. Friday and Saturday night crowds of under 1,900 aren't going to cut it.
It's the biggest game of the year, so here's hoping the fans show up.
It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination on Tuesday as the Raiders fell 4-3 in overtime to the Red Deer Rebels.
Having said that, full credit to Red Deer for an impressive turnaround.
The Rebels have had a tough year and were riding a 13-game losing streak last week when they beat the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers 4-1. This was their first home win since before Halloween.
Then, Red Deer beat the B.C. Division-leading Kelowna Rockets 4-3 in overtime before falling 2-1 in overtime to Lethbridge. The Rebels rolled into Saskatchewan this week and beat the Raiders in overtime on Tuesday and blanked the Blades 2-0 on Wednesday night.
What a turnaround from 13 straight losses to 4-0-1 in the next five.
Justin Nachbaur had a phenomenal game on Tuesday night with a goal and a couple of thundering hits throughout the contest.
The 17-year-old rookie battled his way onto the team in training camp this year, showing an impressive skillset to go with a physical presence at six-foot-three and 220 pounds. It’s been a learning process at times for him this year, but on nights like Tuesday you see what kind of potential the Cross Lake, Man. product has. He could be a big-time player in the coming years for this team.
It looked to me like Tuesday’s game was a bit of carryover from the two blowout games on the weekend.
By the third period on Saturday, things were coming easy for the Raiders so as you could imagine they were trying to fit in the extra pass or move rather than putting the puck on net and crashing in for a rebound with the game well in hand.
In the opening frame on Tuesday, I thought the Raiders were totally in control, but there were several instances where the team passed up on a good shooting opportunity, opting for a high-risk passing play that didn’t work out. If they were able to jump out to a lead in the first period, that’s probably a different game than it turned out to be.
Having said that, I fully expect the Raiders to clean that up and play at a high level Friday night as they look for a big two points against the Blades.
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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