The Ed Chynoweth Cup is staying in Saskatchewan.
The Prince Albert Raiders won their first WHL Championship since 1985 in dramatic fashion thanks to an overtime winner from overage forward Dante Hannoun with just 1:35 remaining in the first overtime period to defeat the Vancouver Giants in seven games.
Prince Albert will now travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia for the Memorial Cup that starts on Friday when these Raiders take on the host Halifax Mooseheads to open the tournament.
It was only fitting that this series went seven games and then some in what is safe to say was one of the best WHL Finals in history.
With the exception of Game 3 which the Raiders took 8-2, the whole series was a tight match up where the two teams did not give each other an inch.
And Game 7 was no different.
The Raiders came out to a quick start in what was a scoreless opening period, outshooting Vancouver 5-1 early mainly due to a power play that sent Bowen Byram off for tripping at 3:34 in what was Prince Albert’s only man advantage of the game that the Giants were able to kill off.
Vancouver had a power play of their own four minutes later that they were also not able to capitalize on.
Both teams were fully prepared to leave everything out on that ice surface at the Art Hauser Centre right from puck drop based off of the amount of shot blocks in the first period alone. It played a big role in the shots only being 9-9 after 20 minutes as not many shots were making it to the goaltenders.
The Giants opened the scoring in Game 7 off the stick of Calgary Flames prospect Milos Roman who had two goals on the night. The Slovakian centre took a pretty feed cross-crease from Byram and was able to one-time it past Ian Scott for his first goal since Game 3 of the second round match up against the Victoria Royals.
Noah Gregor had a two-goal night of his own in Game 7, starting with the tying goal at 14:55 of the second period to even the score going into the final period of regulation of the 2018/19 WHL season. The San Jose Sharks prospect capitalized on the Giants not being able to clear the puck out of their zone and danced around a defender before snapping it low glove for his 12th goal of the postseason.
Just before the close of the second period, the Giants got their second man advantage of the evening with just over three minutes remaining but yet again could not convert.
The Raiders took more control in the second period, outshooting Vancouver 12-5, but only getting the one goal due to David Tendeck, who had 37 saves on the night, making some big saves to keep his team all square with the powerhouse Raiders after 40 minutes.
For the second time in Game 7, Gregor victimized Tendeck’s glove hand side 4:25 into the third period, putting yet another low glove to give the Raiders their first lead of the decisive game.
The lead was short lived when Milos Roman acheived his own two goal game just four minutes later to even things up, on the power play, pouncing on a rebound off the rush for the import’s fourth of the playoffs, making for a both nerve wracking and dramatic finish to the WHL season.
Roman’s power-play goal marked the first goal with the man advantage for either team since Game 3 in Langley when 16 power plays were given out and six goals were scored on those advantages.
Vancouver was able to fend off late pressure from the Raiders just long enough for time to expire in regulation and give themselves a chance to regroup in time for the biggest period of their lives.
The sold out crowd of 3289 at the Art Hauser Centre got their money’s worth on Monday, witnessing the first WHL Final Game 7 overtime since 2007 where the Medicine Hat Tigers defeated Vancouver in double overtime to take the WHL crown and the first WHL championship won in overtime since 2017 when Alexander True scored in Game 6 to send the Seattle Thunderbirds to the Memorial Cup.
The two teams traded multiple scoring chances in the extra frame, both needing their goalies to come up big.
Prince Albert was able to kill off the only power play in overtime with one of their best penalty killers and best players overall, Brett Leason, in the box for shooting the puck over the glass.
Being able kill that off in the last four or five minutes gave the home crowd and the Raiders the momentum they needed to make history.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) May 14, 2019
The Raiders’ big trade deadline acquisition in Dante Hannoun gave the City of Prince Albert what they have been waiting for over the past 34 years — WHL supremacy.
The 20-year-old, who is no stranger to the Giants after spending parts of five seasons with the Victoria Royals, took a backdoor pass from Noah Gregor and made no mistake scoring his 14th of the playoffs. The goal gave him the playoff goal scoring title.
The veteran of over 300 WHL games sprinted his way the length of the ice in celebration, with his teammates chasing behind him trying to catch him. The roof was ready to blow off the place.
On the other side of this dramatic and historic victory is a team that clawed their way through this series after losing three straight games, including an 8-2 loss on home ice.
The Western Conference champion Vancouver Giants in both the regular season and playoffs, did everything they could to give themselves the best chance at winning but fell just short.
Despite facing hardly any adversity all season, the Giants did not just lay down when going down 3-1 in the series. They gave their home fans a game to remember in Game 5, their last at the LEC and stole Game 6 in Prince Albert to give the series an even playing field.
The Giants’ graduating players are defenceman Dallas Hines, forward Davis Koch and captain Jared Dmytriw.
The trio combined for exactly 1000 WHL games between regular season and playoffs in their careers.
The series was a fitting end for a great 2018/19 WHL season.
Raiders Memorial Cup Schedule
Friday, May 17 – versus the Halifax Mooseheads
Monday, May 20 – versus the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Tuesday, May 21 – versus the Guelph Storm
Tie-Breaker – Thursday, May 23
Semi-Final – Friday May 24
Championship Final – Sunday, May 26