This year’s Western Hockey League (WHL) champions have a strong local flavour.
The Prince Albert Raiders defeated the Vancouver Giants 3-2 in overtime Monday night at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert to win the best-of-seven WHL final in seven games, and advance to the Memorial Cup.
The Raiders captain is defenceman Brayden Pachal of Estevan, who played his minor hockey in the Energy City until heading to Moose Jaw to play midget hockey. He also played several games of junior hockey with the Power Dodge Estevan Bruins.
Pachal, who is in his fourth season in the WHL, had a goal and eight points in 22 postseason games with the Raiders this season.
He accepted the WHL's Ed Chynoweth Cup from league commissioner Ron Robison, and then passed it on to his teammates.
Also on the Raiders is forward Cole Fonstad of Estevan, who is in his third season of major junior hockey. Fonstad, a fifth round selection of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, also played his minor hockey in Estevan until he reached midget, and had one game with the junior Bruins.
Fonstad finished with two goals and six points in 20 postseason games.
Prince Albert had a 3-1 series lead over the Giants in the final, but the Giants won Games 5 and 6 to tie the series. Dante Hannoun’s goal with 1:35 to play in the first overtime period lifted the Raiders to the series victory.
It’s the Raiders first Western Hockey League championship since 1985. That team was coached by former Estevan Bruin Terry Simpson. They went on to win the Memorial Cup.
This year’s Memorial Cup will be played in Halifax from May 17-26.