East Division race intensifies as Pats host Raiders in WHL on Access action
Prince Albert Raiders (21-20-8-2) at Regina Pats (26-22-5-0)
Saturday, February 3 – Brandt Centre 7 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
Throughout the majority of the 2017-18 Western Hockey League regular season, it’s become quite evident that the East Division would not only occupy their three standard playoff spots, but take hold of both wild card spots as well.
As the top three in the division have remained unchanged for quite some time, the race between the bottom three teams in the division has shifted towards the two wild card spots with the Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, and Prince Albert Raiders in a fight that will go down to the wire as five points separate the two clubs.
Enjoying a 5-0-2-0 run, the Raiders are the hottest team of the three at the moment despite sitting at the bottom of their division. They have two games in-hand on both the Blades and Pats and last night’s win against the Blades helped move them into this favourable position.
The one downside for the Raiders, despite all their success this season, is that they still have yet to beat the Pats, going 0-3-2-0 in the season series and lost 12 of the last 13. Four of those five games have also been one-goal contests, showing how agonizingly close the Raiders have come over the course of the season to upending the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup hosts.
On the side of good news for the Raiders is that their success isn’t limited to just one of two players. Jordy Stallard (Winnipeg Jets), captain Curtis Miske, Vojtech Budik (Buffalo Sabres), and Regan Nagy have all produced at a point-per-game pace or better since Jan. 1, with teammates Parker Kelly (Ottawa Senators), Cole Fonstad, and Kody McDonald close behind.
One area the Pats will have to contend with the Raiders is special teams, where the Raiders haven’t allowed a power play goal since Jan. 19 against Red Deer, thwarting 25 of their opponent’s last 26 chances with the man-advantage.
For the Pats, it’s a birthday celebration as captain Sam Steel turns the big 2-0 and a win against the Raiders would obviously be in his list of plans for a perfect birthday, that doesn’t seem like such a huge wish when looking at the Pats’ recent success against the Raiders.
They’re 18-6-3-2 against Prince Albert in the past five seasons and it’ll be the three final meetings of this year’s seasons series that have the most implications.
With 57 points, they stand the most chance of overtaking the Brandon Wheat Kings for third in the East, with just four points separating the two clubs.
One of the more interesting players to watch on the Pats’ side in Saturday’s game could be defenceman Cale Fleury (Montreal Canadiens). Since he started the year with the Kootenay ICE, Fleury has 37 points (9G-28A) in just 49 games, placing him one point away from tying his career-high of 38 points in 70 games last season.
His 13 points (1G-12A) in January vaulted him into 14th in defensive scoring in the league, 13 points behind teammate Josh Mahura.
Watch as the Pats try to extend their home winning streak against the Raiders to six games tonight in WHL on Access action!
It's game day! The Raiders are in Regina tonight to take on the Pats at the Brandt Centre! Listen live on 900 @CKBI or watch on #WHLLive.@LeavittMachine Preview: https://t.co/2lkMs7Kuw5 pic.twitter.com/cFOG5KBmF6
— Prince Albert Raiders (@PARaidersHockey) February 3, 2018
Prince Albert Raiders
Head coach: Marc Habscheid
Leading scorers: C Jordy Stallard (32-33-65); LW Cole Fonstad (16-37-53); C Kody McDonald (25-21-46)
Leading goaltender: Ian Scott (33GP, 15-13-2-2, 3.15 GAA, .900 SV%)
Power play: 19th – 16.5 per cent
Penalty kill: Second – 80.9 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: D Sergei Sapego (upper body, week-to-week); RW Regan Nagy (lower body, day-to-day)
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) February 3, 2018
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Cameron Hebig (35-34-69); C Matt Bradley (30-28-58); C Sam Steel (18-32-50); D Josh Mahura (17-33-50)
Leading goaltender: Ryan Kubic (28 GP, 12-14-2-0, 3.67 GAA, .888 SV%)
Power play: 12th – 22.4 per cent
Penalty kill: 20th – 74.5 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: C Scott Mahovlich (lower body, one week)
Oct. 13 – Regina 2 Prince Albert 1 (OT)
Dec. 30 – Regina 2 Prince Albert 1
Jan. 1 – Prince Albert 4 Regina 5 (OT)
Jan. 7 – Prince Albert 1 Regina 4
Jan. 17 – Regina 4 Prince Albert 3
Feb. 3 – Prince Albert at Regina*
Feb. 19 – Regina at Prince Albert
Mar. 14 – Prince Albert at Regina
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast.