An upset was always the plan for Aki Seitsonen and the Prince Albert Raiders. Doing it with a sweep over the Saskatoon Blades, well, that may have been asking for too much.
"We sure didn't think it would happen," admitted Seitsonen.
Not that he's complaining or anything.
Having dispatched the Blades in four straight games, the Raiders and Seitsonen, a 2004 fourth-round Calgary Flames draft choice, are kicking back this weekend while the other WHL clubs still alive are busy beating up each other for the right to advance to the second round of the post-season party.
"We were talking about that in practice," Seitsonen said.
"If Medicine Hat wins, we play them, so we're hoping if that happens, Red Deer beats them up pretty good."
Should the Rebels upset the Tigers, the Raiders would face Brandon in the second round -- provided, of course, the Wheat Kings finish off the Moose Jaw Warriors.
No matter what, Prince Albert's WHL heroes will be even bigger underdogs. But with the way the Raiders took out Saskatoon, a club that finished 15 points ahead of them in the standings, you can understand them not feeling overwhelmed.
"The first game, we played solidly and it was a big key for us," said Seitsonen, who collected a trio of assists in the four-game sweep. "Somehow, we started finding ways to win those tight games after."
Not that anyone should be dismissing the Raiders too quickly.
This is a club that went into the post-season having won seven of its last 10 games.
This is also a club that spent a huge chunk of the regular season without both Jeremy Colliton, who was injured during the world junior training camp, and Kyle Chipchura, whose Achilles' tendon was severed in practice in early December.
Chipchura finally returned in the clinching game.
One of the major benefactors of those injury woes was the 6-ft. 2-in., 190-lb. centre from Finland, who collected new WHL bests with 24 goals and 52 points in 67 games.
"I played a lot and enjoyed playing as much as I could," Seitsonen said. "I was one of the guys that had to step up."
Did he? Well, yes and no.
"There are some things I could have done better. I had a slow start, went 15 games without a goal and nine games without scoring a point," he said. "My season was so-so."
But his year is looking up, seeing as the Raiders are on to the second round for the first time since 1999, when they were dumped by the Calgary Hitmen in the Eastern Conference final.
And the excitement's building in the Saskatchewan city, which is packing full houses into the Communiplex.
"I'd say it was the loudest it's ever been in my time in Prince Albert," Seitsonen said of the crowd when they finished off the Blades.
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MONSTER TALES: Matthew Lombardi went into last night's Lowell Lock Monsters game against Portland having scored three goals in his first four games ... Chuck Kobasew's 35 goals include a league-best 11 game winners.
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WRANGLER ROUNDUP: In five games after being dealt to the Long Beach Ice Dogs, goalie Sebastien Centomo has four wins and a .928 save percentage.
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JUNIOR JOLTS: Defenceman Dion Phaneuf was benched the whole third period in Red Deer's 6-1 loss to Medicine Hat Wednesday night.
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COLLEGE CLIPS: Curtis McElhinney of Colorado College was named WCHA first-team all-star goalie, while Michigan's Eric Nystrom was lauded as CCHA's top defensive forward.