Raiders take title
The host Raiders won only their second home tournament in 29 years
The Swift Current AA Bantam Kabos Raiders defied history and treated spectators to a wild championship final Sunday afternoon in a 7-6 win over Lloydminster to win their home tournament for only the second time in 29 years.
Raiders captain Zac Mackay scored with 4:27 left to put the Raiders ahead for good in a game that the Raiders held eight different leads of one or two-goal varieties only to see Lloydminster fight back to tie the game on three different occasions including forcing a 6-6 deadlock with 7:06 remaining.
"It is great in there," saidMackay outside a rowdy Raiders dressing room. "These guys are a good team, we played them in the round robin and lost to them but we knew that we could battle back and beat them, so it feels really good."
He said the Raiders worked as a team to overcome a lot of adversity during the contest.
"We are a team and we work as a team so as soon as one guy goes down we all go down. But when one guy goes up we all go up. So we just rose to the challenge and we pulled it off."
"It was pretty exciting, I went down on a two-on-one and I tried to get it to the other guy and it just bounced right back. Fortunately I put it in the net," said Mackay of his game winner that he backhanded through the five-hole to complete a five-point outing along with four assists.
One of the game's many turning points came midway through the second period when the Raiders were the benefactor of a five-minute powerplay after Lloydminster took a match penalty for cross-checking. The Raiders would score three times on the powerplay but allowed a shorthanded goal and another while four-on-four after taking a penalty midway through the powerplay. The two teams entered the powerplay tied 2-2 and emerged with a 5-4 Swift Current lead.
The Raiders took the 5-4 lead to the dressing room but allowed a goal with 11:48 remaining in regulation for a 5-5 tie. Only 23 seconds later though Chace Nelson scored his second goal of the game for a 6-5 lead but 4:19 later Lloydminster tied the game 6-6 to set the stage forMackay's heroics.
Justin Spagrud was named the game's MVP with two goals, while Spencer Wand added a goal and three assists. George Hudec also added a single goal.
JordanWittman had a pair of helpers, followed by singles from Tim Vanstone, JoshWik, and goaltender Kade Behm.
“I can’t believe it, it is the second time in I think 29 years or something. Everyone is just happy. We knew that we could beat any team here and we are psyched,” said Behm, who was named the tournament’s Top Goaltender. “We are a team and we have battled through a lot of stuff. This team can do anything once we put our mind to it. I thought that we just battled hard and went out there and gave it our all,” he continued.
Head coach Kent Woods was proud of the way his team battled through adversity throughout the championship game and during the entire weekend.
Continued on page B2
“When you look back at it Justin Spagrud was the Top Forward and Zac Mackay was the MVP, we were deep this weekend though. Dalton Menke, for me would have been my top forward all weekend and again Chace Nelson was right there. That is how you face adversity is having everyone step up and this weekend we had 9, 10, 11 guys up front, six D-men and both goaltenders and that is how you face adversity is have everybody competing.”
Woods coached the Raiders to their only other home title in 2005 and after a few seasons with the AAA Midget Legionnaires he is proud of his team’s progress in his first season back behind the Raiders bench.
“I think that at the start of the year we were a team that relied a lot on two guys andwe were very individual. This team now, I guess the word would be ‘gelling’ and we are starting to come along as a team and everybody is chipping in and that is what we want to see. They are enjoying the game and being more physical. At the start of the year we were probably laying three bodychecks and now if they don’t lay three in a shift the guys are mad at themselves so we have come a long ways since the start of the season for sure.”
A 5-4 shootout win on Sunday morning sent the Raiders into the 'A' final at their home tournament. The nail-biting semi-final win over Camrose set up a rematch against Lloydminster in the final.
Saturday afternoon Spagrud's goal with 13:37 remaining in the third period lifted the Raiders to a 4-3 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors and into the semi-final.
Playing their second game of the day only 15 minutes after falling 4-3 to Lloydminster, the Raiders overcame exhaustion to defeat their league rivals in a hard-fought battle.
The Raiders opened the tournament Friday afternoon with a 10-0win over Taber, followed by a 7-1 win over Unity later that evening.
Spagrud was named the tournament’s Top Forward, while Lloydminster’s Colton Waltz was named the Top Defenseman.
This weekend the Raiders will be on the road to face the Lumsden/Bethune Lions and the Balgonie Prairie Storm as they look to improve on their 6-1-1 record in the South Sask Hockey League.