Back on January 18, the Raiders were coming off a hard-fought 4-3 loss to the Regina Pats. At that point, Prince Albert went 3-6-1 in 10 games since the holiday break and found themselves well out of the playoffs.
At the time, the Raiders were at the bottom of the East Division with 40 points. They were seven points back of the Saskatoon Blades, 12 points back of the Regina Pats, and 20 points back of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Fast forward 21 days, and things have changed dramatically as the Raiders have picked up six wins and three overtime losses in their last nine games.
In that timespan, the Raiders have erased the seven-point deficit and are now even with the Blades, while holding a game in hand. The green and gold gained eight points on the Regina Pats, now sitting six points back with a pair of games in hand and have cut an impressive 11 points into the lead held by the Brandon Wheat Kings, currently just eight points back of the Wheaties for third in the division with 53 games played each.
Looking ahead, the Raiders’ next six games will be a stiff test against East Division opponents, but also an opportunity to continue making up ground.
My thoughts this week:
Ahead of Saturday night’s game in Regina, I quizzed Marc Habscheid in our pre-game interview about the penalty kill, and how they had managed to kill off 22 straight penalties at the time.
Before going on to explain what had been working on the PK unit, he made sure to point out it was a faux pas to talk about a streak and warned this was probably going to jinx it.
What happened that night?
Regina went 2/4 on the power play, and the streak came to a crashing halt.
But I didn’t learn my lesson.
Wednesday pregame, I brought up that the Raiders had scored the first goal in six straight home games and asked about what was helping the team to quick starts.
Once again, the Redden jinx was in play…until Jordy Stallard got the Raiders on the board 5:39 into the contest.
Habscheid let me know (jokingly) after the game the streak carried on “in spite of” my jinx.
It was great to see Sergei Sapego get back into the lineup on Wednesday night for the first time since suffering an upper body injury on Dec 1.
After missing 25 games, it will take him a while to get back to the player he was pre-injury, but he’ll be a big boost for this team once he gets his game back.
Goaltender Interference Non-troversy
During Wednesday night’s game, there was a review of the scoring play after Spencer Moe tucked a puck inside the post and past Kootenay goaltender Duncan McGovern, giving the Raiders a 3-2 lead at the time.
I pondered on air at the time whether the review was regarding possible goaltender interference as Carson Miller had crashed into the crease ahead of the scoring play. I mentioned I was used to watching the NHL and the ongoing drama surrounding the goaltender interference review process, and didn’t think you could use video to review that particular play in the WHL.
On further investigation, that turns out to be true.
In the WHL Rulebook, Rule 69 outlines Interference on the Goalkeeper. At the bottom of the first paragraph of the rule, it says “(t)he rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.”
That’s not to say the on-ice officials can’t confer after the play, but the use of video review is not allowed.
For those curious, Rule 38.4 outlines the various situations that are subject to video review in the WHL.
The review that night was likely to do with whether Carson Miller kicked the puck or not before Moe tapped it in, but it was deemed a good goal.
New look Broncos
This weekend, Prince Albert faces Swift Current twice in three days with a trip down south on Friday night and the Broncos making a return trip on Sunday.
The first four times the two teams met this season, the games were extremely close. Prince Albert won the first one by a convincing 5-1 margin, lost the next in a shootout, the next in overtime, and the fourth in regulation as the Broncos scored in the final minute to take the win.
Back on Jan. 12, the new-look Broncos came to Prince Albert for their first game since the deadline acquisitions of Josh Anderson, Giorgio Estephan, Stuart Skinner, and Andrew Fyten. That night, the Broncos looked to be an impressive unit in a 4-0 victory, although I don’t think the Raiders performed near the level they’re capable of.
This weekend should be a great barometer of how Prince Albert stacks up against one of the premier teams in the country.
Battle with the Blades
Of course, in between those Broncos games is a massive meeting in Saskatoon against the Blades.
Following last Friday’s commanding 5-2 Raider win over the Blades at the Art Hauser Centre, I’ll be curious to see what the rematch looks like in a building that has been extremely difficult for Prince Albert all season.
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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