Raiders win league, sweep first round of playoffs – Round two starts tonight in Killarney

TOP TENDING VS TIGERS – Raiders’ goalie Matthew Vandenberghe slaps the puck aside while his teammates swarm to defend their net. The team has been getting top goaltending from both Vandenberghe and fellow netminder Austin Simpson, and it’s carried on into the playoffs with the Raiders sweeping the Tigers in the best of three series on Thursday night in Neepawa. The Raiders open up their second round series vs. Virden tonight in Killarney at 8:15.


Raiders top of the heap

By Tim Morrison

The Killarney-Wawanesa Raiders finished up the WHSHL regular season schedule with three games in one weekend, and, by winning two of three, secured first place in the overall standings.

On Friday, February 10 in Wawanesa the Raiders hosted the Birtle Falcons, who trailed the Raiders by just two points prior to the game.

Matt Vandenberghe got the start in net for the home team, and was kept busy from the opening face off as the Falcons pressed early. However, the Raiders soon found their legs and started getting pucks deep in the Birtle end, and, as a result, drew first blood.

Dylan Smith was Johnny-on-the-spot as he batted home a Wade Thompson rebound at the 7:14 mark to get a lead for the Raiders. The Colgate Company may be in touch with Dylan for future commercials, as he had the biggest smile on his face as he returned to the bench.

A minute later Reid Opperman sent Kyle Peters in on a partial breakaway and he put the Raiders up by two as he rifled a shot over the shoulder of the Falcon netminder.

The two teams traded goals in the second period. Ryan Forsythe scored for the Raiders as he buried a Kolton Dunwoody rebound on the power play, after entering the Birtle zone on a two on one.

The Raiders continued to skate well in the third period, and, with a Birtle player in the penalty box, Reid Opperman finished off a nifty passing play from Cody Shackel and Kyle Peters to put the K/W boys up 4-1. This would be the final score as Matt continued his strong play in the Raider net.

On Saturday, February 11, the Raiders travelled to Souris on slippery roads to battle the Souris-Reston Sabres. The Sabres will be first round opponents the weekend of the Provincial Qualifier from February 24 to 26 in Hamiota. The Sabres have arguably the top goaltender in the league with Dane Fortin between the pipes, and the Raiders know he is very capable of stealing a game.

The contest in Souris certainly started out that way, as the Raiders fired shot after shot at the Sabre net before Wade Thompson was finally able to solve Fortin 12 minutes into the period. Kyle Peters and Cody Shackel picked up helpers on the only goal of the first frame.

The Raiders started off the second period on a power play, and Kolton Dunwoody put the Raiders up by two when he pounced on a rebound in front of the Sabre net. Brady Hartwig and Taylor Opperman drew assists on the man advantage play.

The Raiders would find the back of the net on two more occasions in the middle frame. Reid Opperman and Wade Thompson, with his second of the game, increased the K/W lead to 4-0 at the second break. Kyle Peters picked up helpers on both goals, with Cody Shackel picking up his second point of the game on Reid’s tally.

The Sabres would ruin Austin Simpson’s shut out bid six minutes into the third, when Dustin Butler managed to find the back of the net on a mad scramble in front of Austin. The final would be a 4-1 Raider victory. With the win, the Raiders clinched the overall top spot in league standings, but there was still another game to be played Sunday in Russell.

Sitting on a bus for three hours, and playing our eighth game in 10 days didn’t help start the game out very well. The Major Pratt Trojans jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead, before the Raiders closed to within one early in the second on goals by Brady Hartwig and Kyle Peters. A late Trojan goal at the end of the second seemed to drain the energy out of the Raiders however, and we never recovered.

Major Pratt scored four more times in the third before Reid Opperman scored a power play marker to make the final 8-3 in favour of the Trojans.

Hash Marks: The Raiders opened their best of three playoff series against the Neepawa Tigers on February 15 in Killarney with a 6-3 win, and followed it up the next night in Neepawa with a 6-3 victory to sweep the first round 2-0.

Congratulations to Kyle Peters as he was selected as the WHSHL Most Sportsmanlike Player, as voted by coaches and managers throughout the league. Kyle finished second in scoring in the league behind MVP winner Joben Smith of Major Pratt, and had only 10 minutes in penalties. Kyle’s great work ethic had a huge impact on the Raider’s success this year.