Raiders winless in the New Year, drop 5-2 game to Pats
By Jeff D’Andrea
The Prince Albert Raiders haven’t won a game since last year.
They’ve lost all three games they’ve played in 2013, most recently a 5-2 loss Saturday to the Regina Pats, who’ve won their last four straight games.
In their losing streak, they’ve averaged 2.3 goals per game, about a goal less than their season average of 3.46. They haven’t had the services of their captain and leading scorer Mark McNeill since Dec. 16 or rookie wunderkind Leon Draisaitl since Dec. 8, both have represented Team Canada and Team Germany respectively at the IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championships.
They Raiders have missed two 16-year-old rookies as well Reid Gardiner and Tim Vanstone who were at the U17 World Championships. With all of them coming back and, Raiders head coach Steve Young said them returning is a positive, but more needs to be done.
“I don’t think we can be a team that’s thankful that we get four guys back and everything’s going to automatically turn around… three losses is enough for us.” said Young. “We need to get back on track.
“I think it’s no different than teams that lose their top guys to injuries, guys that have gone to those types of things are good players. Mark’s the captain, Leon’s had a good year. You look at Reid Gardiner, when he left here he was on the first or second line and Vanstone’s an energy.
“You do miss those guys, they’re part of your team, you miss them in a lot of ways but we can’t just say, they’re back things are going to turn around. We have to make them turn around.”
In the New Year, the Raiders have lost to the Medicine Hat Tigers 5-2 Jan. 2, 6-3 to Saskatoon Friday then 5-2 to the Pats on Saturday.
“It just hasn’t quite been there,” said Raiders forward Dakota Conroy on the team’s starts. “In Saskatoon, we scored really early, 14 seconds but after that, nobody responded as we expected and it just kind of a downhill slide.
“At the same time, throughout the three games we’ve improved on each one. Medicine Hat was definitely the worst game of the New Year. In this game, I thought we played a pretty decent game, the bounces just didn’t go our way.”
Conroy both Raider goals Saturday and has really responded in the absences of McNeill and Drasaitl. Conroy has an active six game scoring streak with three goals, six assists and nine points in that span. His linemate Anthony Bardaro had a six-game, 11 point streak come to a halt Saturday as both have been carrying the offence.
“We’ve been linemates almost the whole time I’ve been here, I think we were only off for a week,” said Conroy, who leads the team in goals with 17 and tied for points lead with 39. “He talks a lot, that helps me figure out where he is on the ice. If I mess up, or he messes up, we’re able to tell each other. It helps that we’re such good friends, we’re not going to get mad.”
As the Raiders try and figure out how to get out of their three-game skid, the Pats are trying to keep their four-game win streak alive.
Pats 18-year-old forward Chandler Stephenson watched his team struggle as he missed 25 games with a foot injury, but in the five games he’s been back, his Pats have won four.
Stephenson has put up nine points in that span as well, including an assist on the game-winning goal to Lane Scheidl.
“Over the Christmas break, I was working on getting back into game shape,” said Stephenson. “As practices went on, I was able to get back into that shape. Lately my line’s been helping me a lot and I’ve been contributing a lot.”
It helps that Stephenson’s been centering Morgan Klimchuk and Lane Schiedl on the top line, both of whom scored against the Raiders.
Pats rookie Braden Christoffer scored his first and second career goals in the game as well to propel the Pats over the Raiders.
Saturday’s game featured four fights, a line scrum and 89 penalty minutes combined. It should make for an interesting rematch on Saturday, where the Pats will come back to the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
Newly acquired Jayden Hart got an assist and has a point in all three of his games as a Raider, two goals and an assist. Luke Siemens let in five goals on 20 shots. Pats rookie goaltender Teagan Sacher made 30 saves on 32 Raiders shots.
On Twitter: @jeff_dandrea
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