THE TIMES - APRIL 19, 2017

Raiders turn around their fortunes on the ice -
Sixth place team goes on Cinderella run in MMJHL Playoffs

By: Ligia Braidotti

Above - Raiders (L-R) - AJ Bracken, Kyle Jur, Zaz Oleksiw, Tanner Magalas, Matt Zolinski and Nikolas Lynam. Front - Ryan Brown (Goalie)

The Raiders Junior Hockey Club might have finished sixth in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League’s regular season standing, but its players weren’t ready to go down easy in the playoffs.

On April 2, the Raiders booked a spot in the MMJHL final after beating the first-place Charleswood Hawks 6-0 to take their best-of-seven series in five games. 

Raiders general manager Lorne Sanders said the series was jokingly dubbed "the ’hood versus the ’wood."

"We focused on paying a lot of attention to our systems. Systems win championships, structure wins championships," said Raiders forward Carson Rybuck said.

Rybuck, 21, added the team’s playoff strength has been possible due to the outstanding play of 21-year-old goalie Ryan Brown, who has been making big saves at the right time.

"He has been absolutely sensational this post-season. Our entire regular season we had some ups and downs trying to find our groups, but this post-season is what really matters and he has really come into his own, and that’s been huge for our success," Rybuck added.

By beating the Hawks, the Raiders earned to right to face the Stonewall Jets in the best-of-seven final series. The Jets finished second in the regular season and defeated the fourth-place Pembina Valley Twisters in six games in their semi-final series.

Raiders captain Nick Mathews said Stonewall uses its physicality well and that he expects a tough series.

"They are a hard-working team and they throw the body real good. We have to stick to our game and just keep the pressure up on them, and we should be fine against them," Mathews said.

Mathews said the Raiders’ 23-man roster underachieved in the regular season, but he loves that they’ve turned things around at just the right time.

"For us, it’s just a mentality that we can beat anybody in this league, and we proved everybody wrong."

Rybuck said the Raiders will need to stick to their game and take advantage of power plays in order to prevail in the final. 
"The mental aspect of the team is a big factor in playing, so that’s going to be important for us to be able to maintain our focus," he explained, adding they are well prepared. 

"It’s been a good season for us in terms of fundamentals."

The first two games of the series were played on April 9 and 11. 

The Raiders won the first game 2-1 score and the Jets took Game 2 by the same score.

Games 3, 4 and 5 were played April 13, 15 and 18, respectively. Scores were unavailable at press time. 

Game 6 is on April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Seven Oaks Arena (745 Kingsbury Ave.)    

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