February 16, 2010
P.A. finds pair-fectionAddition of former Oil Kings winger big boost for Raiders
By SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency
Prince Albert Raiders linemates Craig McCallum and Brandon Herrod remember 'The Game' very differently.
Tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at the end of last season, the Raiders and Edmonton Oil Kings squared off in an epic, winner-takes-all battle.
The Oil Kings eventually claimed the final post-season berth with a 2-1 overtime win.
"It was an exciting feeling," McCallum said.
"It was painful," Herrod disagreed.
McCallum, of course, was a member of the Oil Kings at the time.
"It was like we won the Mem Cup," he continued.
"For it to be as dramatic as it was, it was fun."
It was anything but fun for the Raiders, who won two of their final three games to force the showdown, Herrod said.
"We battled hard at the end (of the season)," he said.
"But we learned a valuable lesson. This year, we realize how important every single point is.
"We have to play every game like it's our last."
Not much has changed in P.A.
The Raiders are in another dogfight as they attempt to nail down a playoff spot for the first time since the spring of 2005.
They've finished in the crying hole three times since then.
Head coach Bruno Campese said enough tears have been shed. It's time to get the monkey off their back.
"We had a lot of great learning experiences last year," Campese said.
"It went right down to the wire.
"We have a few guys back from last year who can express how important every game is."
The Raiders have been lights out at home. Their 22-6-2 record at the Art Hauser Centre translates to a winning percentage of .767, third best in the WHL. On the road, they've gone 6-20-3 (.259), which is second worst.
"Every gam e is important," Campese said.
"But our road record needs to be better going down the stretch."
McCallum has been a great addition for the Raiders. He leads the team with 62 points and a plus/minus of plus-17 in 59 games.
"I've been fortunate enough to get some bounces and I've been playing with some good guys in (Brandon) Herrod and (Jordan) Hickmott," the 21-year-old said. "We just gelled.
"I'm happy with the move (from Edmonton). It's worked out for the best for me. Hopefully, I can help them make the playoffs this year."
Herrod, who leads the club with 33 goals, credits McCallum for his career-high numbers.
"McCallum works his butt off," Herrod said.
"He's helped me a lot. He finds me for those easy tap-in goals."
Herrod is in his third season with the Raiders and is eager for his first taste of playoff hockey.
"I hear stories of the rink being packed and how crazy the fans get," the 18-year-old said. "I've yet to see it, but I'd love to."
Campese said the team has relied on the talented duo throughout the season.
Now he needs them to lead the way on the road as the Raiders make another playoff push.
"We put them together a few games in and we haven't broke that pair up all year long," Campese said. "They seem to have this chemistry with each other and it doesn't seem to matter who's in the middle with them.
"They need to be good and they need to be consistent. That's one thing we have to find within our game individually, and those guys need to be as good on the road as they are at home."