PRINCE ALBERT, SASK. —Dante Hannoun may be one of the smallest players in history to put on a Prince Albert Raiders jersey, listed at 5 feet 6 inches tall and 160 pounds.
But on Monday night at the Art Hauser Centre, Hannoun scored the biggest Raider goal in the last 34 years.
Hannoun netted the Game 7 overtime winner to grant the Raiders their first WHL title since the 1984-85 season. Hannoun’s goal came at the 18:25 mark of the extra frame, ending the game at 3-2 in overtime over the Vancouver Giants.
Noah Gregor had the puck and slid it over to Hannoun, who had snuck into an open area of the Giants’ defence.
“I don’t know. I blacked out. It’s unbelievable,” said Hannoun, who was still in disbelief moments after the goal. “That’s probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.
“It was crazy. I saw Gregs come in and I saw a little lane. It was right on my tape and I blacked out. It was slow motion and it went in. I don’t really know what to say.”
This was only the second Game 7 in WHL history to go to overtime. The last was in 2007, when Medicine Hat Tigers’ Brennan Bosch scored in double overtime to defeat the Vancouver Giants in double overtime.
For the Raiders, the road to get to this point was long. At times, it may have seemed impossible.
Before this season, the Raiders hadn’t gotten past the first round since the 2004-05 season. In 2016-17 season, the Raiders won just 21 games and finished the year ranked 20thout of the 22 WHL teams.
Raiders captain Brayden Pachal joined the team at the trade deadline that year. He’s seen the team and the franchise grow quickly from that low point to a championship squad.
“It’s been unbelievable. Two years ago, we were at the bottom of the league. Look at us now,” Pachal said. “The fans have been with us the whole time. It’s amazing for the community, it puts the market of P.A. back on the map again. I’m so excited.”
Marc Habscheid was one of the big pieces in the transition. He stabilized what was a revolving door of Raiders head coaches, and established a culture of winning, sticking together.
But as he stood on the ice after the game, he was just proud of his players and what they accomplished.
“It was great. It was the right thing. The kids deserve it,” Habscheid said. “They battled a lot of things throughout the years, throughout the season. Justice was served. I’m happy for the city and I’m happy for the kids.”
Raiders goaltender Ian Scott won the 2019 Playoffs Most Valuable Player. Scott led every goaltender statistic, with 1.96 goals against average, .925 save percentage, five shutouts and of course, 16 wins.
The moment the Raiders won the league, Scott actually couldn’t immediately tell from his crease but figured it out pretty quickly.
“It was a blur. At first, I can’t see if the goal’s in, but then I saw sticks and helmets fly,” Scott said. “It was unbelievable.”
Off to Halifax
The Raiders may have won the league, but their season isn’t done. They will take the week to prepare for the 2019 Memorial Cup, May 17-26 in Halifax.
The Raiders will play on Friday against the hosting Halifax Mooseheads on May 17, then take on the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on May 20 and the Guelph Storm on May 21.
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