Pats, Raiders square off in WHL on Access action
Regina Pats (3-4-1-0) at Prince Albert Raiders (3-3-0-0)
Friday, October 13 – Art Hauser Centre 7 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
Teams are still in the early stages of the 2017-18 Western Hockey League regular season, but for the Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders, there’s no time like the present to gain ground in the standings.
With seven and six points respectively, the Pats and Raiders sit in the top two wild card spots of the Eastern Conference, but those spots are far from comfy, with the six teams vying for the wild card separated by just three points.
That makes Friday’s season series opener at the Art Hauser Centre that much more important. For the Pats, Friday’s road game is their last until Oct. 24, a stretch of four games. In three road games so far this season, the Pats are 0-2-1, making tonight’s contest virtually a must-win for the club if it’s to establish some moxie away from the Queen City.
While it is still early and there shouldn’t necessarily be any panic, the rest of the division certainly won’t be waiting for the Pats to find their game. The Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings have all enjoyed strong early starts and have rightly taken over the three guaranteed playoff spots in the East Division. The trio also have laid claim to the top three spots in the Eastern Conference.
Center Matt Bradley (8G-8A) and rookie Emil Oksanen (7G-7A) have done their part through the first stage of the season, but more will be required of every player throughout the lineup. Through five games, Sam Steel is keeping close to his better than point-per-game total from last year that won him the WHL Player of the Year Award and made him the top scorer in the entire Canadian Hockey League. With Dawson Davidson and Josh Mahura patrolling the blue line, the team is fine up front. Tyler Brown and Max Paddock haven’t had the best starts to the season, but they shouldn’t be fully on the hook for the team’s slow start.
For the Pats, it now becomes a case of consistency. It doesn’t do any good to win 6-1 and 7-3 contests over Red Deer and Saskatoon respectively if they’re going to lose 4-2 contests to Medicine Hat and 5-3 contests to Swift Current. Granted, there’s still plenty of time for the Pats to find out who they are, though it would be to their benefit to do so sooner rather than later.
The Prince Albert Raiders have also experienced a mixed-bag of results to begin the season, but like the Pats, there’s still plenty of the time for the Raiders to figure out what their ceiling for this season will be.
Unfortunately, a big part of what they had hoped their identity to involve got hurt in the team’s opening game as goaltender and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott remains out indefinitely with the ambiguous ‘lower-body injury.’ The important thing for Scott and the Raiders is obviously seeing their number one goaltender get back to full health, but there’s the mindfulness of wanting to still do well. Rookie netminder Curtis Meger has been above average since taking over the reins of the team’s goaltending duties. He has all three wins for the Raiders this season and will give the visiting Pats a strong challenge.
After the Raiders fell to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, they turned up the pressure on the Medicine Hat Tigers, seeing Winnipeg Jets prospect Jordy Stallard record a career-high six points in one game. It would be unreasonable to expect Stallard to stay at that level of production night-in and night-out, but the team will need to regulate their offence at some point so it doesn’t come in peaks and valleys.
The Raiders also have the dubious distinction of having scored the second-fewest goals this season, a statistic they’d no doubt like to improve. Parker Kelly has averaged a goal per game in five contests this season to lead the club while Stallard and Devon Skoleski both sit tied for second with three goals each.
Curtis Miske presently has just a single goal in six games this season after tallying 15 in 33 games with the Raiders last year following mid-season trade. Seeing him factor more into the team’s offence could help restore some stability. Rookie forwards Justin Nachbaur and Brock Sottile are still searching for their first career WHL goals. Once they adjust to the league, they could also help to aid the Raiders’ rise up the standings.
The Raiders do have the benefit of a home-heavy schedule for the rest of October, with seven of their next 10 games requiring no travel.
Catch all the action from the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert starting at 7 p.m. local time!
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) October 13, 2017
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Matt Bradley (8-8-16); RW Emil Oksanen* (7-7-14); C Sam Steel (3-6-9)
Leading goaltender: Tyler Brown (6 GP, 2-2-1-0, 3.41 GAA, .884 SV%)
Power play: Sixth – 28.6 per cent
Penalty kill: 22nd – 64.9 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: RW Nick Henry (upper body, 3-to-4 weeks); C Riley Krane (lower body, four weeks); RW Austin Wagner (upper body, month-to-month)
— PrinceAlbert Raiders (@PARaidersHockey) October 13, 2017
Prince Albert Raiders
Head coach: Marc Habscheid
Leading scorers: C Jordy Stallard (3-8-11); C Cole Fonstad (2-6-8); C Parker Kelly (5-1-6)
Leading goaltender: Curtis Meger (4GP, 3-1-0-0, 2.03 GAA, .925 SV%)
Power play: 15th – 16.7 per cent
Penalty kill: Sixth – 80.9 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: G Nicholas Sanders (lower body, day-to-day); G Ian Scott (lower body, indefinite); D Brayden Pachal (suspended, three games)
Oct. 13 – Regina at Prince Albert*
Dec. 30 – Regina at Prince Albert
Jan. 1 – Prince Albert at Regina
Jan. 7 – Prince Albert at Regina
Jan. 17 – Regina at Prince Albert*
Feb. 3 – Prince Albert at Regina*
Feb. 19 – Regina at Prince Albert
Mar. 14 – Prince Albert at Regina
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast.