The Prince Albert Raiders will return home to Prince Albert without their second Memorial Cup championship.
The Raiders were defeated 5-2 by the OHL champion Guelph Storm, who secured themselves at least a semi-final berth with the win.
With the Raiders loss, there will not be a tie-breaker game at this year’s tournament, giving the Guelph Storm the guarantee of at least an extra night of rest. The loss also extends a WHL champion losing streak at the tournament to 13 games.
Prince Albert is also the third WHL champion in a row to finish the tournament 0-3. The Brandon Wheat Kings finished 0-2-1 at the 2016 tournament.
Storm head coach George Burnett said having the next couple days off will be important moving forward.
“I think it’s important to get some rest here,” Burnett said. “With the timeouts, with the way the games have gone, they’ve been pretty much three-line games so far, and we need to get some people rested.”
On the other side, Raiders’ coach Marc Habscheid said the lack of rest became too much for his team.
“Tonight we were gassed,” Habscheid said. We played a fresh team and a very good team, and we just didn’t have much in the tank, and then we couldn’t generate much.”
In the first period, a back-and-forth affair started with a goal from the Storm. Fedor Gordeev finished on a pass from Nick Suzuki during an odd-man rush.
Two minutes later, the Raiders on the powerplay tipped a point shot through Anthony Popovich to tie the game. Sean Montgomery scored his first of the tournament from Noah Gregor and Brayden Pachal.
With five minutes remaining in the period, Isaac Ratcliffe took a breakout pass into the Raiders’ zone and scored five-hole on Ian Scott.
The Raiders answered again with 44 seconds to go, on another tipped shot. This time, WHL championship hero, Dante Hannoun redirected a point shot past Popovich. Pachal scored his second assist of the game on the tying goal.
Pachal scored 15 goals as a defenceman this season and added 36 assists in his third season with the Raiders. Despite the result, Pachal said this season was a special one.
“We came here, and we wanted to win a championship, but that’s not happening,” Pachal said. “We are proud of what we accomplished back home. A WHL championship is a huge accomplishment, and putting a small market team like Prince Albert back on the map, where they belong is something to be super proud of.”
The remainder of game scoring went the way of the Storm with two goals in the second and another in the third period.
After leaving the Storm’s first game with an injury, Liam Hawel found the scoresheet in the round-robin finale for Guelph, on the powerplay.
Four minutes later Suzuki scored his second of the tournament after being sent in on a pass from linemate Ratcliffe.
The final goal of the game, scored by Suzuki was his third goal of the tournament and third point of the game. The assist came from Ratcliffe for his third point of the game as well.
Amidst the play of Suzuki and Ratcliffe, Sean Durzi had two assists in the game. Durzi now leads the tournament in scoring with seven points.
“The plan tonight was to control what we could control. Our coaches said ‘let us take care of that,’ and you guys focus on getting the win tonight,” Durzi said.
Coach Burnett said, after the game, there are a lot of positives to take from this game.
“Nothing really surprises me about this group,” Burnett said. “Was it our best game tonight? By no means, but we got some real good minutes from Schnarr’s line, Hawel, Toropchenko. We didn’t give up a lot of great chances against, and when we did, Popovich was solid.”
The Guelph Storm awaits the winner of tonight’s game between Halifax and Rouyn-Noranda to determine the remainder of their schedule.