Holt and other Saskatchewan natives on Giants say they’re been hearing from family and friends about games thereThe Prince Albert Raiders clinching a spot in the WHL championship clinched Dawson Holt’s phone going bonkers.“It was basically, ‘Hope you can get a lot of tickets,’” said Holt, a right-winger whose Vancouver Giants open up the best-of-seven league championship against the Raiders on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert, a 90-minute drive northeast of his family’s Saskatoon home.“Obviously, it’s cool no matter what. I’d love to play in the WHL final any place in the entire world. But it’s nice that it’s back home, so I will have that family support there with how many people end up coming and how many tickets we can get.”Gm 1 – AT PA (May 3 at 6 PM PT)Gm 2 – AT PA (May 4 at 6 PM PT)Gm 3 – AT Vancouver (May 7 at 7 PM PT)Gm 4 – AT Vancouver (May 8 at 7 PM PT)Gm 5 – AT Vancouver (May 10 at 7:30 PM PT) *Gm 6 – AT PA (May 12 at 5 PM PT) *Gm 7 – AT PA (May 13 at 6 PM PT) **if necessary— xy – Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) April 28, 2019Prince Albert guaranteed entry to the WHL’s Big Dance on Sunday, a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings giving the Raiders the Eastern Conference championship in six games.The Giants assured themselves a spot on Friday, finishing off the Western Conference finale in five games with a 3-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs.Prince Albert (54-10-2-2) won the regular season pennant in the 22-team league, so the Raiders have home-ice advantage for this series. Vancouver (48-15-3-2) was the runner-up, finishing 11 points back.
Giants forward Dawson Holt carries the puck during the 6-4 win in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the host Seattle Thunderbirds.
Brian Liesse /
The WHL weights its schedule heavily towards division and conference games. It keeps costs down and lessens the time away from school.Because of that, Vancouver played 36 of its 68 regular-season games this season against the four other teams in the B.C. Division. It also means that in the last five years the Giants have played in Prince Albert just twice. They also played on the road twice against the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats, for instance.That can’t help but add to the meaning of this series for Holt, 20, and the other Saskatchewan natives on the team. Defenceman Kaleb Bulych, 19, is from Yorkton, which is about about a four-hour drive southeast. Defenceman Alex Kannok Leipert, 18, hails from Regina, which is four hours south. Centre Jared Dmytriw, 21, is from Craven, which is 30 minutes north of Regina.Holt remembers playing a tournament in the Art Hauser Centre as a 10-year-old and thinking, “how cool it was to be playing in a WHL rink.” Kannok Leipert guesses he’s played in the rink “15 or 16 times, but I’ve never seen it packed like it’s going to be.”NEXT GAMEFriday | Game 1Vancouver Giants at Prince Albert RaidersWestern Hockey League finals6 p.m., Art Hauser Centre, Radio: Sportsnet 650 AMThe Raiders list capacity for the Art Hauser Centre at 3,299, including 708 standing-room spots. It is one of the smaller rinks in the WHL.It will be interesting to see how many Giants fans get into that crowd for Games 1 and 2, which goes Saturday. They could have a few, it would seem.“It started to set in yesterday when family members and other people from Regina were asking about it and asking about tickets that this is my turf, my stomping grounds,” said Kannok Leipert. “I know some people will be making the trip up. It will be cool to be playing out in Saskatchewan for a bit.”The Giants and Royals have both lost just once on home ice through eight starts in their respective rinks in these playoffs. For the Raiders, it was a 4-3 overtime decision to Edmonton in Game 2 of the Eastern final.
Vancouver Giants blueliner Alex Kannok Leipert, a Regina native, takes down Seattle Thunderbird Sean Richards during Game 2 of their opening-round WHL playoff series at the Langley Events Centre on March 23, 2019.
Gerry Kahrmann /
Prince Albert was 28-4-2-0 at the Art Hauser in the regular season, while Vancouver was four points back with their 26-6-1-1 at the Langley Events Centre. Those were the two best records on home ice in the WHL this season.Vancouver’s mark includes a 3-1 win over Prince Albert in a Jan. 24 game at the LEC. That was the lone time the teams met this year. Vancouver recorded a 5-4 overtime win in Prince Albert last season on Oct. 17, 2017.The Giants are in the WHL final for the first time since 2006-07, when they lost in seven games to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Vancouver was hosting the Memorial Cup national tournament that season and went on to defeat the Tigers in the Memorial Cup championship game.Prince Albert hasn’t been to the league final since winning it in 1984-85.The Memorial Cup goes May 16-26 in Halifax.email@example.com/SteveEwen CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.