Rik Fedyck

2019 WHL Final Preview: 1E) Prince Albert Raiders vs. 1W) Vancouver Giants

Franchise Playoff History:

The 2019 WHL Final will be the first postseason meeting ever between the two franchises, with just three Finals appearances between the two teams.

The Raiders have been to one championship series since joining the WHL from the SJHL for the 1982-83 season when they won both the WHL (swept Kamloops) and Memorial Cup (beat Shawinigan 6-1 in the final) championships in 1984-85.

This will be the Giants’ third WHL Finals appearance since joining the WHL for the 2001-02 season after appearing in back-to-back finals in 2005-06 and 2006-07. They swept Moose Jaw in the 2006 Final before losing to the Moncton Wildcats in the Memorial Cup semi-finals. Vancouver appeared in the 2007 Memorial Cup as hosts despite losing the WHL Final to Medicine Hat in seven games. The Giants went on to beat the Tigers in the Memorial Cup Final on home ice.

Davis Koch (photo – Rik Fedyck)

2018/19 Head-To-Head:

The two teams met once this season at the Langley Events Centre, a game that was televised on Sportsnet. The Giants won the game 3-1 on January 24th.

Vancouver’s Trent Miner earned first star that night, stopping 31 of 32 shots in the win.

Vancouver’s Davis Koch was the second star with two goals, including the game winner and the empty net goal.

Prince Albert’s leading scorer Brett Leason was third star, recording eight shots on the night.

The Raiders’ lone goal came from captain Brayden Pachal.

Brayden Watts had the game’s opening goal for the Giants.

Leading Scorers

Bowen Byram leads the WHL in playoff scoring with 18 points (7G, 11A) in 15 games with teammate Davis Koch just one point behind the lead with 17 points (2G, 15A) in the 15 games.

Noah Gregor has 16 points (7G, 9A) in 16 games and Brett Leason (5G, 11A) in 15 games share the team lead with 16 points, good for a tie for third in the WHL.

Noah Gregor (Ed Kaiser/Postmedia)

Prince Albert’s Aliaksei Protas leads the WHL with 11 goals this playoffs, thanks to two hat-tricks in his last two games. His 11 goals matches his regular season total in 61 games.

How They Got Here:

Vancouver:

Vancouver finished atop the Western Conference in the regular season, giving them a match-up against the second wild card Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round.

The Giants have gone 12-3 in this year’s playoffs, beating Seattle in six games, Victoria in four, and most recently Spokane in five games. The lengths of the series may be a little misleading, specifically the second and third round with each series having two games needing extra time with the Giants winning three of them.

They showed great resiliency against Spokane, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in two of their four victories, including scoring four goals in 3:21 in the third period of Game 2.

Prince Albert:

Prince Albert was nationally ranked for the entire 2018-19 season as they were the class of the WHL, winning the Scotty Munro Trophy with 112 points.

They then went on to dispatch Red Deer in four straight.

Next up was the Saskatoon Blades. Many thought this was THE series to watch and it did not disappoint. The coaches for both teams were fired up and the players were as well. Prince Albert wound up winning the series in six games and headed to the Eastern Conference finals.

Their opponent was the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Central division winners put up a good fight against Prince Albert, handing them their first loss on home ice of the playoffs. Again the Raiders needed six games to move onto the next round.

The club is 12-4 in the playoffs and has lost just once on the Art Hauser Centre ice.

Storylines to Watch:

(photo-Rik Fedyck)

#1 vs #1

For the first time since 2015 (Brandon and Kelowna), the WHL Final will feature both number one seeds. Prince Albert won the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the regular season champions for the second time in franchise history (1985), compiling a record of 54-10-2-2.  Vancouver finished 11 points back of the Raiders with a record of 48-15-3-2.

Will the Giants’ special teams success continue?

The Giants have allowed just three power-play goals in their last two series after allowing seven in their first round matchup against Seattle. Their penalty kill held the WHL’s most potent power play in Spokane to just one goal in five games, with it coming in the last game. Vancouver’s power play, which was fourth in the WHL this season with a 24.6% success rate, will have a tough task against the league’s best penalty kill during the regular season. The Giants have scored the most power-play goals in this year’s playoffs (16) in 15 games.

Can “The Hardy Boys” continue to lead the Giants?

The line of Dawson HoltOwen Hardy, and Jared Dmytriw have been the Giants’ best line these playoffs, having accumulated 35 points collectively in 15 playoff games and have single handedly won games for Vancouver in these playoffs. They’re a hard checking line that make a living out of working the puck down low to create scoring opportunities, look for them to continue their play in the Finals.

Ian Scott (photo-Darren Steinke)

Will Ian Scott continue his stellar play in the final series?

The Giants offense has actually outscored the Raiders through their playoff runs. (3.87 to 3.38) Ian Scott though has been the toast of the WHL, racking up all 12 wins for the Raiders while posting a goals against average of a measly 1.85. He backs that stat up with a .930 save percentage. He will need to be at his best for the Raiders to eke out the WHL championship.

 

How They Match Up:

Vancouver:

David Tendeck (photo-Doug Love)

The Giants gave the net fully to David Tendeck in the last round against Spokane after splitting the duties with 17-year-old Trent Miner for both the first and second rounds. Tendeck looked as sharp as he has all season in the five games and will need to continue that against the top offence in the WHL. The Raiders finished the regular season as the only team in the WHL to hit 300 goals for, with 307. The Giants had 79 fewer goals with 228 goals for, but their defensive game has made up for their low scoring games all season which they’ll look to keep as a trend against Prince Albert. As far as the goals against are concerned, the two teams stack up a lot more evenly. Prince Albert finished in second in the WHL with 156 goals against while the Giants sat in third place with 162, thanks to the teams’ more than reliable goaltending with the Raiders’ Ian Scott and the aforementioned Tendeck/Miner pairing.

Prince Albert:

Brayden Pachal (photo-Dayna Fjord)

The Raiders were led by two players that were in the top 10 in WHL scoring, Brett Leason and Noah Gregor. Both players finished with more than 85 points. The Giants closest player was in 18th overall with 78 points (Davis Koch). The Raiders also have a high scoring defenseman in Brayden Pachal, it will be interesting to see if he can keep pace with standout draft eligible defenseman Bowen Byram. Don’t forget the previously mentioned Protas, he’s hot right now with 11 goals in the playoffs to lead the league. And of course there is Sean Montgomery, one of the best faceoff men in the league. He will take all the important faceoffs for the Raiders and play minutes against the top lines of the Giants. The coaching edge also has to go to the Raiders, Marc Habscheid has more than 500 WHL regular season wins and has made two appearances at the Memorial Cup.

DUBNetwork Prediction: Raiders in seven.

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