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Raiders keep winning

The St. Albert Raiders played four games in six days and skated away with a winning record.

The St. Albert Raiders played four games in six days and skated away with a winning record.

The Raiders beat the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers 5-1 on the road, knocked off the Southside Athletics 5-4 at Akinsdale Arena and in the last game before the Mac’s tournament at Calgary, polished off the Red Deer Rebels 5-3 on home ice.

“We said going in we wanted to treat it like a four-game series like the Mac's,” said assistant coach Geoff Giacobbo. “Every excuse in the book was out there for us to not play well [against Red Deer]. We talked about that before the game and I thought we stuck together and believed in each other.”

The day before, the Raiders and the hometown Lloydminster Bobcats battled to a 2-2 draw. In the north division pennant race, the Bobcats (14-3-5) are four points back of the top team in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League but have three games in hand on the Raiders (16-4-5), one of which is today’s visit by Southside (11-9-4).

Giacobbo said the Border City showdown played out as expected.

“It was a good game. In my mind, a tie was the right result. Both teams carried the game for about half the game. They had a good goalie and so did we [Liam Liston]. They were very in-your-face, two guys on the puck, a well coached hockey team,” Giacobbo said “I didn't think we got outplayed. We could have played better but neither team gave the other much. Our power play was good, we just didn't cash in when we had the opportunities.”

On Sunday against the Rebels (12-6-3), the Raiders opened the scoring shorthanded as defenceman Jake Rawlins stepped up and chipped a puck past a defender, then rushed in and fired the puck glove side past Travis Weber.

“I’m not going to lie. I had my head down most of the way,” chuckled Rawlins. “I'm just trying to find ways to contribute.”

Red Deer tied it up on a different power play moments later. After snapping the puck off the left post, Brett Printz got another chance and buried a rebound off Liston's left pad.

Bryton Mills restored St. Albert's lead 5:30 into the second period, tapping home a feed from Kevin Briner behind the net.

Red Deer knotted it up again at 12:44 with Collin Valcourt snapping a shot off the post and in.

Rawlins stepped up again on the power play and let loose a rocket at 13:12 for a 3-2 Raiders lead.

“[Matt] Benning made a nice pass so I had all the time in the world to wind up and we had good traffic in front,” he said. “We have guys who are outworking others and moving the puck well right now on the power play.”

Red Deer battled back one more time at 2:46 in the third on the power play, when Tanner Dunkle's skate deflected a point shot by Sam Jardine through Liston.

Kevin Lacroix sealed the game at 11:01, snapping home a rebound off Evan Hnatiuk's point shot. Tyler Rebkowich added the empty net marker for insurance.

“They took the play to us a bit in the first. In the second we did a good job of establishing ourselves and playing a better system game. In the third we found a way to get it done,” Giacobbo said. “The guys did a really good job today.”

The Raiders march into the Mac’s undefeated in five games (three wins, two ties) and are 9-1-3 in their last 13 games.

“We're better today than we were a week ago. We're committed to doing the little things better like blocking shots and getting the puck deep. Our special teams were in a lull but have come back real strong,” Giacobbo said.

The Raiders will have their work cut out for them at the Mac's. Their pool includes the North Island Silvertips (12-10-2) of the British Columbia Major Midget League, Red Deer (second in the south), the UFA Bisons (9-11-4) and the Saskatoon Contacts (19-6-1-1), who are tied for first in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.

“There are some good teams in the Mac's but you have to play them whether it's in your pool or playoffs,” Giacobbo said. “Some people say it's unfortunate to be in a pool with a number of top level teams, but we look at as a good challenge. That's the kind of hockey we want to play and will prepare us for the playoffs.”