‘A good test for us:’ Manson
Raiders head to Alberta for pair of weekend games
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
Centre Cole Fonstad tries to backhand a shot past goalie Curtis Meger in Prince Albert Raiders practice Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre.