As good as they were…
in the regular season, the Prince Albert Raiders were tested in the WHL Playoffs. After an easy series with Moose Jaw, the Raiders ran into some very tough competition down the stretch. After Kirby Dach and Saskatoon gave Prince Albert their first taste of adversity, Prince Albert followed that up with a tough six game series against Edmonton in the conference finals. Then, in the Ed Chynoweth Cup Finals, they met with the second-best team in the WHL, the Vancouver Giants. The Giants gave the Raiders everything they had, forcing the series to go the distance after being down 3-1. In overtime in game seven, Noah Gregor found Dante Hannoun to score the game-winning goal, giving Prince Albert their first Ed Chynoweth Cup since 1985. That was the last and only time the Raiders ever won the championship and made it to the Memorial Cup, where they beat the Shawinigan Cataractes to win the tournament. This year’s team has shown that they deserve to be here at this point of the season, let’s see why.
Four-Headed Beast Leads the Offence
Scoring has not been an issue all season for the Raiders, even more so in the playoffs. Four of the top five playoff scorers came from the Prince Albert lineup, led by Brett Leason. The Calgary native had a hot start to the regular season, but cooled off following the World Juniors Tournament. Leason found his touch again in the playoffs, and ended up leading the Raiders in playoff scoring with 25 points. He had nine points in both the second round and the finals, and had three games where he tallied three points or more. Leason looks to enter this summer’s draft, and his performance this season has certainly given him the right to get a call from a GM in the NHL.
At points where Leason faded during the season, Noah Gregor stepped up for the Raiders. After finishing right behind Leason for second in team scoring, Gregor had an incredible postseason. The San Jose prospect scored well above a point-per-game average, scoring 24 points in the playoffs, and had a big series in the finals, especially when it mattered most. In game seven, Gregor potted two goals in regulation, before assisting on the game-winner in overtime. The Beaumont, AB native has shown veteran leadership all season long, and looks to make his last shot at junior hockey glory count.
The player Gregor set up for that championship-clinching goal, Dante Hannoun, was another over-aged centre that played a big role for the Raiders. Ever since being picked up from Victoria at the trade deadline, Hannoun has meshed well with the Prince Albert roster, and was looked upon to score big goals in their postseason run. The Delta, BC native scored 14 goals in the playoffs, which was most in the playoffs, and his 24 points tied him with Gregor for third among WHLers.
While the over-agers were playing some of their best playoff hockey of their careers, one rookie made quite the first impression in his first postseason in the WHL. Aliaksei Protas showed that he was ready for the big stage throughout Prince Albert’s run. The Belorussian only scored 40 points during the season, but in the playoffs Protas shined scoring 22 points for the Raiders. 15 of those points came in the final two series, including seven points in the seven-game final. Protas has shown throughout the playoffs that, despite this being his first time around the block, he is fully capable of playing a big role on such a veteran-laden roster.
Ian Scott is Looking Good as Usual
A team can score as many goals as they want, but if they do not have someone watching their back, making sure the other team does not, then it would be all for naught. Thankfully for Prince Albert, they do not have that issue in the slightest with Ian Scott between the pipes. The Toronto prospect has been the best goaltender from day one in the WHL, and earned the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy for WHL Goaltender of the Year. In the playoffs, Scott really shined. He led all WHL goaltenders with a 1.96 GAA and .925 SV%, including five shutouts. The Calgary native had to be big when the Raiders were tested the latter stages of the playoffs, especially when it mattered most. Scott held off a stellar Vancouver attack in the finals, garnering two shutouts. Even though Scott’s overall numbers slowed down after the Raiders incredible start to the season, his calm demeanor and consistent play has back-boned this Prince Albert team. Going up against some of the best teams they have faced all season, the Raiders are going to need Scott to be at his best in the Memorial Cup.