A year after arriving in Prince Albert, Belarusian defenceman Sergei Sapego is feeling more comfortable every day on and off the ice with the Raiders.
Sapego experienced big changes in his rookie season, coming over from Belarus to join the Tri City Americans last fall before being acquired via import waivers by the Raiders on October 10. Fast forward one year, and Sapego has settled right in to his new home in Prince Albert, sitting second in the league in scoring amongst defencemen through weekend action.
Over 7,000 kilometres away from his hometown of Vitebsk, Belarus, Sapego finds Prince Albert to be a good place to develop as a hockey player.
“It’s not a really big town, which is good because you focus on hockey. I think it’s good, it’s a small town, and all the guys are close together,” Sapego said.
As for his performance so far, he feels grateful for the opportunity to take on a bigger role this year. As a rookie, Sapego was sidelined for two months with an arm injury from December to February and struggled to get back on track after his return.
This year, he’s found success in the early going with a clean bill of health.
“I think I play more, there’s more of a chance for me. [Assistant Coach Jeff Truitt] believes in me and is giving me a good chance,” he said.
Head Coach Marc Habscheid admitted the injury made it a tough year for the player last season, but was impressed with his performance so far this year, bringing a number of elements to the lineup.
“He’s like Parker Kelly, he’s just a pain to play against. He competes, he battles, he hacks, he whacks, he’s tough to play against and on top of that he’s very skilled, so he’s been a big part of our team so far," Habscheid said.
In addition to disrupting his season with the Raiders, last year’s injury also prevented Sapego from competing with Belarus at the World Juniors in Buffalo last year. Unfortunately Belarus was relegated at last year’s tournament and will be competing in the Division 1A competition held in Germany in mid-December rather than the top level in Victoria and Vancouver. Still, the blue liner knows it would be good for him to perform on a big stage like that.
“It would be a good chance to play in front of more scouts at World Championships. A good opportunity for me,” Sapego said.
This year, Sapego found added comfort level in the room with the addition of forward Aliaksei Protas, who also calls Vitebsk home. The two Belarusian imports have combined for 16 points through nine games so far.
McDonald on the shelf
Monday afternoon in Calgary, Raider forward Kody McDonald left the game against the Hitmen in the second period and would not return for the rest of the night. On Wednesday’s WHL Weekly Report, McDonald was listed as out indefinitely with a lower body injury.
Forward Jakob Brook remains on the injured list this week, with a day-to-day timeline to return from his upper body injury.
Raiders on the Rise
After a 3-1-0-0 road swing through the Central Division, Prince Albert has jumped to number two in this week's Kia CHL Top 10 rankings with an overall record of 8-1-0-0. The last time Prince Albert was listed at number two in the country was October 2, 2013.
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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