‘A good test for us:’ Manson

Raiders head to Al­berta for pair of week­end games

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - SPORTS - EVAN RAD­FORD

As the Prince Al­bert Raiders head to wild rose coun­try for a two-game stretch, as­so­ciate coach Dave Manson says they have the best and the worst to learn from in prepa­ra­tion for the games.

The Raiders (2-2-0-0) play in Leth­bridge Fri­day even­ing against the Hur­ri­canes (2-2-00), and then they travel east to Medicine Hat for their game against the Tigers (2-2-0-0) on Satur­day.

The Raiders’ two wins came this past week against the Calgary Hit­men in over­time on Fri­day and via a dom­i­nant 4-2 win ver­sus the Tigers on Satur­day.

It’s the Fri­day game that Manson says the team can learn from: “I thought the first pe­riod against Calgary is one of our best pe­ri­ods of the year. Then we come out and we fol­low it up with prob­a­bly one our worst pe­ri­ods of the year.”

Af­ter dom­i­nat­ing puck pos­ses­sion and scor­ing chances in the first frame, the Raiders were up 2-1 on the scoreboard; in the sec­ond pe­riod the team fell flat, al­low­ing the Hit­men to work the puck in their de­fen­sive zone and score three goals in 2.5 min­utes.

The Raiders tied the game late in the pe­riod, and they even­tu­ally won the game in over­time.

To avoid lulls like that while on the road in Al­berta, Manson said his play­ers need to keep their heads.

“If you come up with a good pe­riod, never get too high, never get too low. It’s a learned skill. Play­ing that game con­sis­tently for 60 min­utes is some­thing you’re con­stantly learn­ing, and it’s al­ways evolv­ing at the ju­nior ranks.”

“It’s gonna be a good test for us. We have to make sure we keep the puck in check and we know what we’re do­ing with it – we’re not loose with it and giv­ing up scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties on odd-man at­tacks,” he said.

Against the Hur­ri­canes, he said he ex­pects the cen­tral divi­sion team to ex­e­cute a sim­i­lar scor­ing at­tack as last year, with play­ers like Gior­gio Estephan and Jordy Bel­lerive.

The 20-year-old Estephan leads his team with six points (one goal and five as­sists) while Bel­lerive is close be­hind with four points (one goal and three as­sists).

“You re­ally gotta make sure you man­age pucks against them. And ev­ery­body knows they got one of the top goal­tenders in the (WHL), with Skinner. They’re very well­rounded,” Manson said.

Estephan echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments about the Raiders: “They’re gonna put up a tough fight.”

The Hur­ri­canes’ cap­tain said it’s im­por­tant that his team stays fo­cused and doesn’t get dis­tracted by the play of Parker Kelly or other Raiders who might try to ag­i­tate or an­tag­o­nize them.

“It’s re­ally a men­tal game of stay­ing fo­cused,” he said.

His team’s speed and skill lev­els are ad­van­tages, he said, but he noted that its younger play­ers are work­ing to learn the struc­ture and the speed of his team’s play.

Raiders’ cap­tain Cur­tis Miske doesn’t ex­pect Leth­bridge to let up ei­ther.

“They’re al­ways play­ing fast and play­ing hard. They’re a team a lot like us, which we like,” he said.

The ‘canes will still try to use their core play­ers to find suc­cess, de­spite the de­par­ture of former team cap­tain Tyler Wong, ac­cord­ing to Miske.

Mean­while, Tigers’ cap­tain Mark Ras­sell ad­mit­ted that his team’s loss in P.A. caught them off guard.

“We didn’t play our best on Satur­day. It took us a while to get back our game plan. And in some ways, I think we were ex­pect­ing an eas­ier game,” he said.

To win against the Raiders, his side needs to “sim­plify our game in the de­fen­sive zone, as we play as a group,” he said.

They’ll need to cap­i­tal­ize on their pow­er­play and use it as a mo­men­tum-builder to find suc­cess in the game, Ras­sell noted.

In the sec­ond pe­riod of that game, Medicine Hat took a 2-1 lead on a pow­er­play goal from Max Ger­lach. Prior to the goal, the Tigers mostly sti­fled the Raiders’ puck-cy­cling play and kept their de­fen­sive zone clear of Prince Al­bert play­ers.

Manson said he ex­pects the Tigers to be im­proved by game time on Satur­day. “They’ll prob­a­bly have (right winger Zach) Fis­cher back in their line-up, who’s one of the top play­ers in the league.”

“(They’re) a good team. They’re a puck pos­ses­sion team and they play with pace,” he said.

“You re­ally gotta make sure you man­age pucks against them. And ev­ery­body knows they got one of the top goal­tenders in the (WHL), with Skinner. They’re very well-rounded. Dave Manson

EVAN RAD­FORD/DAILY HER­ALD

Cen­tre Cole Fon­stad tries to back­hand a shot past goalie Cur­tis Meger in Prince Al­bert Raiders prac­tice Thurs­day at the Art Hauser Cen­tre.

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