By Carter Brooks
Photo by Luke Chudleigh
The Prince Albert Raiders are Western Hockey League champions.
On Monday evening, the Raiders completed their near-perfect 2018-19 WHL season with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Vancouver Giants in game seven of the WHL Final at home in Saskatchewan. In the process, Prince Albert captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup and punched its ticket to the 2019 Memorial Cup in Halifax, N.S.
After splitting the first two games in Prince Albert, the championship series shifted to Vancouver for three contests, the first two were won by the visitors, before the Giants collected a game five victory. Vancouver then tied the series back up at three games apiece in Saskatchewan, forcing Monday's game seven.
Despite two of the previous six contests between the two rivals ending as one-goal games, game seven was the series' only overtime matchup. The teams exchanged goals in both the second and third periods before regulation came to a close. It took nearly the entire overtime period to find a winner, before Dante Hannoun potted the cup-winner from the doorstep at 18:25 of overtime. Prince Albert goaltender Ian Scott stopped 24 of 26 shots, earning the postseason MVP in the process.
Manitobans on the champion Raiders include forwards Justin Nachbaur (Cross Lake) who has a goal and four points in 21 playoff games, and rookie Jakob Brook (Roblin) who has two assists in 23 games, along with defenceman Max Martin (Winnipeg) who has eight assists and is a +14 in 21 postseason games.
With the WHL championship serving as the only postseason series requiring a full seven games to determine a winner, the Raiders' celebration will be short lived, as the team heads out to Halifax for the Memorial Cup running Friday, May 17th-26th. The host Halifax Mooseheads lost to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in six games, while the OHL champion Guelph Storm took care of business in six games after falling behind 2-0 to the Ottawa 67's.
Although two QMJHL teams will be represented in the Memorial Cup, the Huskies are situated further west than most of the teams in the OHL, needing to travel roughly 1,800 kilometres to Halifax for the yearly spectacle. In comparison, Guelph will also travel approximately 1,800 kilometres for the sold-out tournament. Prince Albert will obviously take the cake, flying roughly 4,300 kilometres east of their home in central Saskatchewan.
The Raiders begin their Memorial Cup schedule with a date against the host Mooseheads on Friday, before taking the weekend off. Prince Albert and Rouyn-Noranda will then square off Monday evening, before taking on Guelph the following day. The tiebreaker is set for Thursday evening, while the semifinal is Friday and the championship game will go Sunday evening. Games will be available to view on Sportsnet.