Raiders rolling in playoffs
Midget AAA team one win away from upsetting first-place Leduc in north division semifinals
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 06:00 am
The St. Albert Raiders are poised to do the unthinkable: knock off the first-place Leduc Oil Kings in the midget AAA playoffs.
A win tonight in game four would cap off the best-of-five north division upset. Puck drop is 7:45 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
“That’s a huge game. It would be nice to finish them off in our barn. Hopefully the crowd will be cheering loud,” said centre Brenden Passek. “They’re the best team in the league so it’s really exciting to be up 2-1 on them because statistically-wise we’re not supposed to be with them right now.”
If needed, the deciding game between the Oil Kings (23-8-4) and the fifth-place Raiders (18-11-6) goes Friday in Leduc at 7:45 p.m.
“We don’t want to go back there for game five in their barn. You never know what could happen. They win (game four) and they've got momentum,” Passek said.
The Raiders have Big Mo on their side after victories of 3-0 Friday in St. Albert and 3-2 Sunday in Leduc.
“We’re clicking at the right time,” said Pat Dea, a playoff standout between the pipes. “The team is playing really well. We’re getting contributions from every guy. It’s exciting.”
The Raiders are locked in after dropping the series opener 3-2 in overtime last Wednesday in Leduc.
“We played an all right game but we didn’t follow the game plan. We had some bad mental breakdowns and made a couple mistakes,” Passek said. “In games two and three we followed the game plan perfectly. We made sure we executed it really well.”
The Raiders turned the series around with a vintage performance in game two.
“It was a good team win,” Dea said. “It was probably one of our better games of the year.”
Dea, 16, was solid stopping 21 shots for his first shutout of the playoffs and second of the season.
“The guys made it really easy on me. They cleared away second, third opportunities and kept pucks outside. They really helped me out a lot,” said the Grade 11 St. Albert Catholic High School student.
Passek, 17, opened the scoring before the four-minute mark in period two and closed it out with a shot into an empty Leduc net with 26 seconds remaining.
“The first goal was a nice feed from (Matt) McNeil and I just tried to bury it. I didn’t get all of my wood on it but luckily it went in,” said the former midget AA St. Albert Crusader. “The empty net goal was really nice to seal the deal.”
Passek was goalless in the playoffs before his breakout performance.
“It was really exciting to score like that in front of the crowd. Akinsdale was packed. The fans were cheering loud. It was really exciting to play in front of bunch of a fans like that,” said the Grade 12 Paul Kane High School student.
Taylor Lotoski potted the insurance marker with 2:07 gone in the third and in game three knotted the score at one in the middle frame with his second playoff goal.
In the third Kole Bryks pulled the Raiders even at two and Conner Lukan sniped the game winner with 7:49 left in regulation time. Parker AuCoin and Luc Smith assisted on Lukan’s second goal in six playoff games.
Nathan Bizeau chipped in with two assists for a team-leading five playoff points.
“When Lukan buried that one it was the best and Daisy was solid in goal,” Passek said. “Our game plan was to try and wear them down from the bottom of the circles and we followed that pretty good and by the end of the game we wore them down.”
The victory rivaled the game three 2-1 thriller in Sherwood Park, when Luc Smith lit the lamp in double overtime to win the best-of-three opening round series against the Kings.
“It was a big win in Leduc. The team played great. We knew we had to win one in their barn and we squeaked one out,” Dea said. “We got two quick ones in the third and we played well with the lead. We also had a couple of good goal-line stands at the end so that was nice.”
Leduc outshot the Raiders 11-7 in the third and 33-28 overall as Dea raised his playoff record to 4-2.
The first goalie taken in the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft by the Edmonton Oil Kings as the 22nd overall pick has compiled a nifty 1.75 GAA and .945 save percentage in the playoffs following a brilliant regular season. The candidate for the Bill Ranford Trophy as the league’s top netminder finished 13-4-4, with a 1.97 GAA and .941 save percentage for the top defensive team in the north.
“My job is to stop the puck and that’s what I’ve been doing but I owe a lot of it to my teammates. They’ve been playing great in front of me. They’re making my job a lot easier. The bounces have also been going my way and I’ve had a couple of posts help me out too,” said the Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League’s most valuable player with the St. Albert Flyers last season.