A young Raiders team will play nine league games this month
An inexperienced Swift Current Bantam Raiders team won’t have much time to find their legs in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League. The Raiders, with only two players back from last season, will play nine league games in the month of October. They dropped their regular season opener Saturday 2-0 to the visiting Estevan Bruins.
The Raiders were out-shot 23-19 and were in the game all the way until a Wyatt Haux goal with 11:31 remaining put the game out of reach.
Josh Skjonsby’s first period goal held up as the game winner after Estevan’s Ethan Veroba stopped all 19 shots he faced. Jeremy Brumwell made 21 saves in the loss in goal for Swift Current.
“It was tough one,” said head coach Kent Woods. “We didn’t really establish a whole lot of pressure on our forecheck. We have come back with only two guys that played last year and the other guys are new to the pace and new to the speed. I thought we were maybe a step behind at times. Any time we had a chance to dictate a turnover or try and force them to make a turnover we got into panic mode and were more worried about that than pressuring them and trying to get them to make a mistake.”
The Raiders struggled at times to gain the offensive zone in the third period, stalling any chances of a comeback.
“Definitely those small things add up,” agreed Woods. “Every time you create that turnover it is coming back the other way and you have to stop and now you are in a defensive mode trying to retreat and backcheck and it takes more out of you legs. If we do a better job of getting that puck in deep at least getting one guy in to pressure them a little bit then we are probably a little better off.”
Woods didn’t think it was his team’s best effort in their season opener.
“The second period was a better period. In hindsight, we moved more pucks D to D than in three exhibition games. We did a couple little things that worked right. We have to play with a little more emotion going forward and see if we can play at the pace that the other team is dictating. Tonight we didn’t. It is going to be a work in progress but there are lots of positives to take out of it.”
The veteran coach hopes his team will make the adjustment to the increased level of competition quickly.
“We have such a busy schedule in October that you hope that we do it quickly or we are going to be behind the eight-ball before we know it. I guess the good thing is that all the games I have seen through exhibition is that everyone is playing close games. We lost a close game 2-0 and I honestly don’t think we played our best game. We are going to turn around and we are going to compete. We are probably going to be in a lot of 2-1, 2-0 games. Hopefully by next weekend we are on the other end of them instead of the wrong end.”
He said there were positives to take out of the loss.
“I think that definitely goaltending has been good all weekend. I think that Brumwell played very well and gave us a chance again today. The fact that our D started moving pucks D to D and then moving up ice was a positive instead of forcing pucks through the middle. It is all those little things that are going to add up. If we can get pucks in deep, if we can start playing a little better in our end, then we are not going to create those major breakdowns where Brumwell has to come up big.
“We still have room to work. We only gave up 23 shots up in our first game and Estevan has three pretty talented forwards there. We did our best to hold them in check. Jesse Wellsch did a pretty good job, considering it was his first game at the AA level. Logan Fritzke came up and played well. Everybody played fairly well on the back end. We just have to make some better passes and make better decisions.”
The SBAAHL has grown to include 22 teams this season with the addition of five Saskatoon teams. The Raiders will compete in the 11-team South Division against teams from Estevan, Melville, Notre Dame, Balgonie/White City, Regina, Weyburn, and Yorkton.
The Raiders finished second in the South last season with a 15-7-5 record before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Prairie Storm.
The Raiders will be back at home this weekend for a pair of league games. The North Division’s Sask Valley Vipers will visit the Raiders on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Fairview West Arena. The Raiders will also host the Weyburn Wings on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. at Fairview.