The Prince Albert Raiders will start the month of November with three straight games against the second and fourth best junior hockey teams in Canada, according to this week’s CHL Top 10.
The Raiders head to Moose Jaw on Thursday to take on the 11-4-0 Warriors, then on Saturday, the Warriors come to Prince Albert to face the Raiders at the Art Hauser Centre. Sandwiched in between those two contests is a home date against the Swift Current Broncos, who are number two this week.
Despite the challenging schedule, the Raiders seem ready to take on anybody with their play of late.
Here are my thoughts this week:
Coming into Thursday night's game, just five teams across the WHL had secured more points in their last ten games than the Raiders. Prince Albert heads into Thursday’s game in Moose Jaw with a record of 5-2-3-0 in its last ten games, picking up 13 points in that stretch. Only Tri-City (16 points), Regina (15), Swift Current (15), Brandon (14), and Portland (14) have done better in that period.
Many coaches and players will tell you that you need to create a culture of winning before the wins start to happen. Coming off a challenging year last season, I wondered how the mentality of the Raiders was affected by missing the playoffs.
It is important to note, however, that last year’s team was a playoff-calibre team over the last two months of the season, and that’s a credit to the coaching staff and the leadership group keeping things moving in a positive direction.
“I think last year the guys did a really good job. It was interesting because we had so much turnover, and we had some losses and we still wanted to get better…It was a season that we missed the playoffs, yet our players still enjoyed coming to the rink,” Head Coach Marc Habscheid said.
Parker Kelly is a key part of the leadership group this year, and I’ve commented in this blog previously about the type of energy he brings to the rink. He said the success the team has had of late has been a group effort.
“Marc [Habscheid] and Dave [Manson] have been telling us we’re a group that could kind of go either direction, and the leadership group is trying to pull the team in the winning direction,” said Kelly. “Things are going good right now and since that win against Saskatoon I think the belief level went up and everybody’s confidence went up too.”
With Saturday and Sunday off this past weekend, the Raiders took advantage of Halloween weekend to have some fun as a group.
On Sunday morning, the team got together for a Halloween scrimmage with everybody wearing a costume on the ice, including staff members, community liaison Chris Colley, and even the radio broadcaster. Goaltender Curtis Meger took this year’s Best Costume award, as he took the ice as a skater wearing an inflatable dinosaur suit. Cody Paivarinta and Zack Hayes, both playing goalie for the day, shared the Worst Costume award as they each donned a white bed sheet with eye holes cut out like a ghost. Despite not receiving an award, I was assured by several players and even the Head Coach that my Joe Dirt costume was “by far the worst one there.”
With an increasingly busy schedule ahead, Habscheid said it’s important to remember you need to have fun to succeed.
“It’s called a hockey game for a reason…. We always tell our guys that no one will work harder than us, but no one will have more fun than us, and that’s kind of the way we roll around here.”
Parker Kelly started his season on a great note, signing an entry level NHL contract with the Ottawa Senators before returning to the Raiders. With that contract came a signing bonus, which is a big financial boost for a junior hockey player. Kelly said he hasn’t made any significant purchases just yet.
“I’ve been talking it over with my parents, what to do with it, but I don’t really know what to do with it. I might put it into some stocks or something, but I don’t need a new car or anything like that…. I’ve mostly just been going out to eat more.”
Fonstad on the radar
Scott Wheeler, a sports reporter at The Athletic who formerly wrote for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Toronto Sun, released his preliminary ranking of the top 62 prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft.
On his list, he had Cole Fonstad ranked 39th, which would put him as a high second round prospect. So far, Fonstad’s name hasn’t come up in much draft buzz, as he was omitted from Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list earlier in the year, but it’s good to see him getting this attention after putting up 20 points in his first 13 games this season.
Early last week I asked Brayden Pachal what he has seen from Fonstad since coming over from Victoria last year. With both players being from Estevan, Pachal knows what Fonstad is capable of.
“I knew he was a special player last year as a 16-year-old, I thought he played really well. Getting his ice time and opportunity this year, he’s running with it. There’s no doubt he’ll be on that ranking soon so I think he just needs to keep going.”
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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