By Kyle Prystupa, MJHL Media:
When the Prince Albert Raiders clinched the WHL championship in a thrilling game seven overtime win it was another special moment this season for the Cross Lake community and the MJHL. Justin Nachbaur, native of Cross Lake, MB and former OCN Blizzard forward recently completed his second WHL season when the Prince Albert Raiders were able to defeat the Vancouver Giants to earn their place in the 2019 Memorial Cup held in Halifax, NS.
As a sixteen-year old player Nachbaur made the OCN Blizzard in 2016-17 and decided to forgo his Midget AAA eligibility to play at the MJHL level. “My time in OCN was really good, the teammates I had were really good guys, most of them were veteran guys, and they taught me a lot about junior hockey” said Nachbaur of his experience with the Blizzard. With 55 games played that season Nachbaur produced 11 goals and 20 assists for a solid rookie campaign. “The advantages I think the MJ gave me were playing in the hard moments and playing against older guys at a younger age”. Known as a power-forward type Nachbaur scored 9 goals and 11 assists in his WHL rookie season following up with 19 goals and 12 assists this year.
Nachbaur also benefited from a long-run in the 2017 MJHL playoffs as the Blizzard advanced league finals with series victories over the Winnipeg Blues and Winkler Flyers. In the finals the Blizzard fell short to the Portage Terriers in six games. When asked how his extended MJHL playoff run prepared him for the WHL playoffs in 2018 and 2019, Nachbaur commented “we had a really good MJ playoff run in OCN, I think that really helped me on what to expect and how to prepare for each round as the playoffs went on and that helped me here last year and this year.”
The Raiders arrived in Halifax on Wednesday with little down time after a classic game seven overtime victory on Monday night. Joining the Raiders at the Memorial Cup are the Guelph Storm (OHL), Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) and host Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). “It’s an unreal experience to be here, I always wanted to play in the Memorial Cup, it’s obviously an experience I’ll never forget” says Nachbaur. The tournament will open Friday evening when the Prince Albert Raiders face the host Halifax Mooseheads.