The Prince Albert Raiders will need to win Tuesday at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia in order to avoid an early knockout. However, it won’t come easy as the team faces off against the Ontario Hockey League champion Guelph Storm, who so far have come away with a 1-1 record through round robin action alongside a 7-6 goal differential.
Should the Raiders fail to defeat the Storm, it will mark the fourth straight year in which the team representing the Western Hockey League went winless in the round robin, following in the footsteps of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Seattle Thunderbirds, and Swift Current Broncos.
While the Raiders are without a win, the squad showed life in Monday’s 6-3 loss to the President’s Cup winning Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who rallied for a trio of goals with five minutes remaining in the final frame en route to the victory. Raiders right-wing Brett Leason, a projected top pick in the 2019 NHL Draft after going unselected in the previous two years, led the club in regular season scoring with 89 points, and while the Calgary native has yet to record a point in the year-end tournament, he had two glorious chances against the Huskies on Monday, including a partial breakaway that was turned aside by Rouyn-Noranda netminder Samuel Harvey.
Still, the club is getting good offensive support from the likes of centre Noah Gregor, a San Jose Sharks draft pick who collected a pair of helpers Monday on goals by left-wing Cole Fonstad and Raiders captain Brayden Pachal before chipping in a tally of his own in the closing minutes of the second period as he later wrapped up the night with three points and first-star recognition.
But with the team scoring only four times through two games, it may be up to WHL Goaltender of the Year and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott to shut the door and guide his team to victory. The 20-year-old had a spectacular 2018-19 campaign, which including the postseason saw him record 13 perfect games in just 72 appearances. Through two contests at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia, Scott has been well tested, already with 60 saves to his name, though his goals-against average has inflated to four-plus while his save percentage sits at a pedestrian .882.
Meanwhile, Guelph enters Tuesday’s match-up looking to return to the win column after falling 4-2 to the host Halifax Mooseheads on Sunday and dropping to a 1-1-0-0 tournament showing after taking their initial contest vs. the Huskies by a 5-2 score on Saturday.
Against the Mooseheads, defenceman Sean Durzi, a Los Angeles Kings prospect, impressed for the Storm, coming up with a two-goal effort after two point shots got by Halifax netminder Alexis Gravel. Originally a second-round draft choice by his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in last year’s draft, Durzi was packaged to the Kings ahead of the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
The budding blue-liner was formidable versus the Mooseheads, with his initial goal drawing an assist from Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, who despite finishing the night with a single point was named as the game’s second star after he directed 10 of the Storm’s 35 shots toward the opposing cage. Suzuki has come up with point-per-game production through the early goings of the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia, demonstrating the offensive skill set that saw him notch 42 points in the OHL postseason as he collected the Wayne Gretzky ’99’ Award as the playoff MVP and set a Storm franchise record for points in a single playoff run.
Catch all the action between the Storm and Raiders on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW. Fans can also tune in at CHLLive.ca.
Next up: Wednesday action sees the host Halifax Mooseheads take on the rival Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.