Raiders get motivational material from the oddest of sources

By Jeff D'Andrea
January 5, 2019 - 10:30pm

After the Prince Albert Raiders weren’t too happy with their efforts in recent games, they got a great piece of motivation to rally around from the possibly the most unlikely source: the general manager of their biggest rivals.

According to Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid, Saskatoon Blades GM Colin Priestner has gone around saying that the Blades are the superior team over the Raiders, after the Blades’ recent trades.

Habscheid made sure to spread that piece of information to his team before the game.

“They added a little bit of motivation to us. It got back to us that their general manager—they’ve added some players and now he thinks they’re better than us,” Habscheid said. “That added to our motivation, so thanks for that.”

It seemed to work as the Raiders came out and beat the Blades 5-2. The Raiders are 5-1 against the Blades this year.

They’re also the top ranked team in the CHL for the past 11 weeks straight and improve to a 35-4-0-1 record. The Blades are now 24-12-5-0 on the season.  

Pre-game shenanigans aside, Habscheid said the Raiders are playing their brand of hockey again after what he said after Friday’s defeat to the Moose Jaw Warriors was not good enough.

“We were back to our old selves,” Habscheid said. “We were on the puck, we were fast, determined and difficult to play against. Our structure was a lot better. It was a good game.”

Noah Gregor led the way with two goals and an assist. For Gregor, that’s his ninth two-goal game of the season. Despite scoring 112 goals in his career, Gregor has yet to complete a WHL hat-trick.

His line was buzzing around as well as Cole Fonstad had a goal and two assists. But perhaps the play of the game was from the 16-year-old rookie in Ozzy Wiesblatt.

Wiesblatt got the puck behind the Blades’ goal and skated around the zone, put the puck through Blades’ forward Gary Haden’s skates and found Fonstad open in front of the net for a tap in.

“I kinda lost it. It went between his legs, so I got kind of lucky,” Wiesblatt said. “Then Fonny boxed out [in front of the net] and I put it on his tape. I got kind of lucky, but happy to see it go in.”

Wiesblatt has quickly become a reliable source of offence for the Raiders, despite being a 16-year-old rookie. In the 20 games Wiesblatt has played since returning from the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Wiesblatt has six goals and 12 assists for 18 points.

In that time, Wiesblatt was put on a line with Gregor and Fonstad in the absences of forwards Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas, who represented their countries of Canada and Belarus on the world stage. Even with their retuns, Wiesblatt’s still up on the Raiders’ scoring line.

“I think I think I’ve got a lot more opportunities with those guys leaving with the Canada camps and Belarus, I think Habby has given me the opportunity to prove myself. I’m just trying to do that,” Wiesblatt said.

The Mini-Three Line

As the Raiders are tinkering with their lineup after the big Thursday acquisition of Dante Hannoun, Habscheid put together what may has been the shortest forward line in major junior hockey history.

The five-foot-six-inch Hannoun centered a line of Spencer Moe, who’s listed at the same height. Parker Kelly looked like the CN Tower on that line, coming in a 6-feet even.

When asked if that’s the smallest line he’s created, Habscheid looked up and had a quick think.

“Maybe,” Habscheid chuckled. “But they’re dynamic, they’re quick, they’re fast and they’re on the puck. They’re courageous, all three of them. I thought they had some good chemistry tonight.”

They teamed up for a goal, with Hannoun delivering a behind-the-back pass to Kelly who buried the Raiders’ fourth goal. That’s Hannoun’s first point as a Raider.

Blades injuries

The Blades were without two of their key players in forward Kirby Dach and defenceman Nolan Kneen, both of whom are dealing with lower body injuries. Dach leads the Blades with 46 points this season, while Kneen is the second highest scoring d-man on the Blades with 34 points in 37 games.

And late in the third period on Saturday, Blades leading blueline scorer Dawson Davidson left the ice favouring his shoulder after a collision with Brett Leason.

Scoring Summary

First Period

1-0, Raiders, Cole Fonstad from Ozzy Wiesblatt and Noah Gregor, 5:52

2-0, Raiders, Justin Nachbaur from Brett Leason, 7:02

Second Period

2-1, Blades, Gary Haden (unassisted), 5:27

3-1, Raiders, Noah Gregor from Brett Leason and Cole Fonstad (power play), 12:25

Third Period

4-1, Raiders, Parker Kelly from Dante Hannoun and Spencer Moe, 11:55

4-2, Blades, Dawson Davidson from Gary Haden and Max Gerlach (power play), 17:28

5-2, Raiders, Noah Gregor from Cole Fonstad and Brayden Pachal, 18:28

Three homers

The Raiders are playing three more home games next week, taking on the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday, the Portland Winterhawks on Friday and the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday. All games will be at the Art Hauser Centre with a 7 p.m. start.


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