PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — The drought is over for the Prince Albert Raiders.
Dante Hannoun scored 18:25 into overtime as the Raiders downed the Vancouver Giants 3-2 on Monday in Game 7 of the Western Hockey League Championship to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup and advance to the Memorial Cup.
Hannoun tapped home a backdoor feed from overage centre Noah Gregor.
"Honestly, I blacked out," said Hannoun about his OT winner. "It was Gregs who made an unbelievable feed to me backdoor.
"I just tapped it in. Like I said, I blacked out. It was just slow motion. It was unbelievable."
The victory marked the first time the Raiders have won the WHL title since 1985. Prince Albert won the Memorial Cup that year under then head coach and general manager Terry Simpson.
This year’s Memorial Cup starts Friday and runs to May 26 in Halifax. Prince Albert opens the tournament Friday against the host Mooseheads.
Hannoun came to the Raiders in a trade in early January from the Victoria Royals. Playing through his final season of major junior eligibility as an overager, Hannoun was elated to score the winner.
"I am just so grateful for this opportunity for the Prince Albert Raiders bringing me in here," said Hannoun. "I’m so happy. I’m speechless right now."
Noah Gregor scored twice for the Raiders while Milos Roman scored twice for the Giants.
Ian Scott, who has a signed NHL entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, made 24 saves in goal for the Raiders. David Tendeck turned away 37 shots for Vancouver.
Scott was named the most valuable player of the WHL playoffs.
"It was pretty cool," said Scott about the MVP. "I couldn’t have done it without this group of guys."
A sellout crowd of 3,289 spectators packed the Art Hauser Centre on Monday.
"The fan support through this whole playoffs is something I have never seen before," said Scott. "They drive us a lot.
"You could tell tonight just the way they were cheering that they fuel us."
Monday’s game marked the first time Prince Albert clinched a playoff series on home ice since 2005, when the Raiders defeated the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-0 in Game 6 of a second-round series.
Prince Albert led the WHL final 3-1 before the Giants evened the series at 3-3.
Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was proud of his club and said it was great to see overage centre Sean Montgomery become a WHL champion. Montgomery is a career Raider who has played a team record 345 regular season games with the club.
"If these kids would have lost, it wouldn’t have been right," said Habscheid. "It wouldn’t have been right for what these guys have gone through the last two to three (years).
"Look at Sean Montgomery and what he went through with the losing and the taunting. If he would have lost today, it wouldn’t have been right. I’m really happy for him."
The Raiders and Giants were the WHL’s top two teams during the regular season.
Prince Albert topped the standings with a 54-10-4 record and was rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. Vancouver finished second overall in the WHL at 48-15-5 and ranked sixth.
The Raiders eliminated the Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon Blades and Edmonton Oil Kings on their way to the WHL final. The Giants eliminated the Seattle Thunderbirds, Victoria Royals and Spokane Chiefs.
Vancouver last won the WHL title in 2006 and last won the Memorial Cup in 2007 as the host team.
Before this year’s playoffs, the Giants hadn’t won a playoff series since 2010.
"I couldn’t be prouder of our group of guys right now," said Giants head coach Michael Dyck. "How far they came this season and the way they battled in this series and right through the playoffs, it is a reflection of the character of this group.
"For our 20-year-olds that are moving on, they left a legacy here. They’ve been a huge part of the change in the culture and winning some respect back.
"For our younger guys, what an experience it was for them and a foundation to build on."
The QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the OHL champion Guelph Storm round out the field at this year’s Memorial Cup.