Bargar Settling Into Life In The WHL
Blake Bargar unleashes a shot in traffic during the Warriors' game against the Tri-City Americans earlier this month. (Photo: Cory Kerr Photography)
Blake Bargar is a month into his first WHL season and he's enjoying every minute of it.
The gritty 16-year-old forward can always be seen smiling on the ice throughout practice at Mosaic Place and genuinely seems to enjoy being able to play hockey everyday with his teammates.
“I really enjoy it here,” he said earlier this week.
Bargar made the Moose Jaw Warriors out of training camp thanks to his work ethic and a physical game that he hasn't been afraid to show so far, even against experienced WHL veterans.
“There's some pretty tough guys out there and I just have to play my game, play tough and play fast and get to the net,” said Bargar, who was taken in the seventh round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.
The Torrance, California native has showed that he was going to play the game hard no matter what he's up against. In his first preseason game, Bargar – five-foot-11 – stood face-to-face with Swift Current defenceman Dillion Hetherington, who stands five inches above the rookie. Bargar didn't back down and showed the team what his game was all about.
Since then he's continued to play hard every chance he gets.
“(Hetherington) was a pretty big guy, but I just have to keep playing my game no matter what,” said Bargar.
There have no doubt been some growing pains for Bargar, he's dressed in 11 of the team's 15 games so far this season, posting one assist and is a minus-nine.
Now that he's gotten a first hand look at the WHL game, Bargar knows that he needs to continue working on his game constantly to keep improving.
“I just want to get better at everything,” he said. “I need to improve my skating, there's some pretty good and fast older guys in this league, and I need to improve my skills, everything.”
Adjusting to life off the ice in the WHL can be almost as tough as on the ice, especially for a 16-year-old entering the league. Coming from the United States, Bargar has had to get use to living over 2,700km away from home and balancing school and hockey.
“Getting up and going to school and going to rink is a long day, but out in Arizona (with the Bobcats) the past year, I kind of did the same thing,” explained Bargar. “We would have a morning skate, then I'd go do some school work and we would have practice again at night.
“It's a little more to do now, but I've made the adjustment.”
Being from California and playing the past couple of seasons in the Arizona Bobcat hockey program, Bargar hasn't exactly been in hockey hot beds. He said it's been fun so far this year playing in a place where hockey is the number one thing on everyone's mind.
“It's nice that the community is behind you and everyone enjoys it,” Bargar said. “Back at home, not so many people talk about hockey, it's mostly other sports, so this is great.”
The Warriors are hoping that Bargar continues to develop into a key member of their offensive depth.
The tribe has hit a rough patch over the past couple weeks with four straight losses and a loss in five of their past six games. They will try to get back on track this weekend with the Prince Albert Raiders in town on Friday and the Calgary Hitmen at Mosaic Place on Saturday.
Howden Headed To Under-17s
Brett Howden will be trading in Warriors' black and red for the red and white of Team Canada this weekend at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Brett Howden is going to get a chance to show what he can do against the best players in the world at his age group over the next week.
The Moose Jaw Warriors' rookie centre is headed to Sarnia, Ontario to take part in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with Canada White.
“I'm really excited,” said Howden before leaving this week. “I'm excited to get out there, meet some new guys and play for my country.”
This will be the 16-year-old's first chance to represent Canada on the international stage after watching his brother do it throughout his junior hockey career. Howden said he's looking forward to putting on the Team Canada jersey.
“It makes me smile and it's a big honour to represent my country,” he said. “Hopefully I can go a long way with Hockey Canada and this is just a start, so I'm really excited to get out there.”
Through the first 20 games of WHL career, Howden has shown that he has the ability to make plays against players up to four years older than him, but now he's going to get the chance to strut his stuff against teams made up of the top players in his age group.
Hockey Canada made the change this year to go from five regional teams to three national teams for the Under-17s, which now combines the top 16-year-old players from across the Canadian Hockey League.
This gives the players a chance to measure up against the best of the best.
“I'm excited to see the skill that's at my age,” said Howden. “I'm going to be playing against these guys quite a bit for the next couple years, so I'm excited to see challenge from overseas as well.”
Howden has played a big role on the Warriors to start the year, entrenching himself as the second line centre behind Brayden Point. He hasn't looked out of place either, scoring five goals and adding two assists in 15 games this season.
His size, standing in at six-foot-two and 195lbs, has been a big part of his ability to transition into major junior hockey quickly. That size should also allow him to assert himself over the next ten days at the World Under-17s.
“Some guys aren't my size at this age, so I'm going to use that to my advantage,” said Howden.
Howden will be on a team, Canada White, which features seven players from the WHL, as well as six QMJHL players and eight OHL players. He said building chemistry as quickly as possible will be key heading into the tournament.
“We all kind of know each other because we met each other at the U17 summer camp, so I know most of the players on my team and most of my coaches too,” Howden said. “Even starting now, we're starting to do team building stuff over email, getting us to send in videos, so our team is doing a really good job of us getting to know each other and putting faces to names.”
Howden and Canada White will get one exhibition game on Friday against the United States before opening the tournament for real on Sunday. They square off with Finland in their opener, then face Canada Black on Monday and Russia to wrap up the round robin on Tuesday.
The gold medal game goes next Saturday at the RBC Centre in Sarnia. Click here for a full tournament schedule.
Warriors Drop Fourth Straight
Kolten Olynek faces off with Alex Forsberg from the Blades during action at Mosaic Place this season.
A strong start was needed by the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday night and they never got it.
“We looked like a tired group,” said Mark O’Leary, Warriors assistant coach. “We started hesitant again tonight and let them get feeling good about themselves and really we were playing catch-up most of the night.”
The Warriors lost 5-2 to the Saskatoon Blades on Tuesday, falling for the fourth straight game, all on the road, and fifth time in their past six contests.
Moose Jaw is struggling with finding a rhythm when they’re away from Mosaic Place, having just one win on the road so far this season and dropping below .500 thanks to their recent skid.
“If you want to be a contenting team in this league, you have to figure out a way to win on the road,” said O’Leary. “We had a real good win in Swift Current and then the wheels have fallen off for the past couple of games.”
Saskatoon got on the board late in the first period when Adam Henry beat Zach Sawchenko for a power play goal with 1:48 to go in the frame.
The turning point in the game came 52 seconds into the second period as Austin Adamson scored on a long point shot that seemed to fool Sawchenko and gave Saskatoon an early 2-0 lead.
Brayden Point pulled Moose Jaw within one with 1:04 to go in the second, but another early goal in the third period from Sam McKechnie restored the two-goal lead for the Blades.
Cameron Hebig extended that lead to 4-1 with his third of the season midway through the period.
Point’s second of the game came on the power play with 4:55 to go, which pulled Moose Jaw back within two, but Ryan Graham scored into an empty net to seal the win for Saskatoon.
The Blades’ fore check gave the Warriors problems throughout the game and O’Leary said the team wasn’t able to adjust.
“We talked about getting back to pucks in a hurry and getting it up to the forwards and hopefully creating offensive chances for us, but I thought that was part of our sluggish start, we weren’t as quick as we needed to be and they capitalized,” said O’Leary.
“They had some long shifts, a lot of grind time in our zone, and I thought that wore on us.”
Sawchenko made 29 saves in the loss as his record dropped to 6-4 on the year, while Moose Jaw managed to throw 32 shots on Saskatoon goalie Nik Amundrud.
The Warriors again were able to generate chances in the game, but just couldn’t finish on those chances. O’Leary said that they know they’re going to start going in eventually.
“When we’re playing well we’re scoring 3-4 goals a night, so it’s going to happen for us, it’s the ebs and flows of junior hockey,” he said. “We’re not losing any confidence in our forward group, who will put up numbers, it’s just a tough stretch and we’ll look at it like we’ll be happy to get rid of this tough stretch early on.”
After playing four games in five nights, the Warriors will get a couple of days to rest before getting back on home ice on Friday night to host the Prince Albert Raiders.
The team is looking forward to getting back on their home ice.
“I’m not making any excuses for the guys, certainly we wanted a better fate in these last four games, but you have to look at a positive here, we are heading home and hopefully we can start a run of our own,” said O’Leary.
Warriors Travel To Saskatoon Tonight
The Moose Jaw Warriors are back on the road on Tuesday night, heading into Saskatoon to battle the lowly Blades in an East Division match-up.
The Warriors are on a three-game losing streak after their weekend trip through the Central Division as they struggled to score goals against Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Edmonton with just three in three games.
“That was one of the tougher road trips I felt in my whole time playing in the WHL,” said 20-year-old forward Tanner Eberle. “Just feel like we gave it all we had in the first game, a real good game against Medicine Hat and we were just kind of tired after that.”
Moose Jaw laid it all on the line against the Tigers last Friday, but came away with a 3-1 loss. They followed that up with a 5-1 loss to Red Deer – a team they beat 3-0 at Mosaic Place – and then dropped a 3-1 game to Edmonton on Sunday.
It was a tough stretch for the Warriors, who have now lost four of their last five games to drop back below .500 for the season at 6-7-0-1.
Despite not finding their way into the win column over the weekend, the Warriors aren't letting the struggles affect their confidence. The team feels they played well enough to win in those games, but just couldn't catch a break when they needed it.
“I feel like we played a really solid game in Med Hat, then I felt like we were tired in Red Deer, but then we came out against Edmonton and played a really strong game too,” said Eberle. “We had chances to win two out of those three games, but just didn't get the chances when we needed.”
The last time that the Warriors faced the Blades they were on a three-game losing skid as well, they won that game 7-1 and went on a winning streak afterwards, winning five of their next six.
“We're going to be hungry for sure,” Eberle said. “Anytime you go 0-3 on a road trip, getting that next win is huge and I feel like this is a good chance for us to get back in the win column.”
Saskatoon remains in the basement of the East Division with a 4-9-0-0 record, but they've won four of their last ten games to show some signs of improvement, but there's also been more struggles, like Friday's 7-2 loss to the last place Lethbridge Hurricanes. Eberle said they can't take the Blades lightly.
“(Saskatoon) has really come along the last few games, they're challenging some teams in our league now, so it's never a guaranteed win going anywhere,” he said. “You never want to look at the team's record, you just want to go in there and play like it's the number one team.”
The start is going to be key for the Warriors against the Blades as the team that's scored first in 13 of Moose Jaw's 14 games this season has went on to win. The Warriors gave up the first goal in each game on their road trip over the weekend.
“First period has to be better than it was on the road,” said Eberle. “On the road, our first periods were necessarily our best, but if we go into Saskatoon, have a really good first period, score that first goal and I feel like that will help us.”
The other big key to ending their losing skid for the Warriors will be on special teams, they've gone without a power play goal over the past four games – a 0-for-16 stretch – which could also explain the recent scoring troubles.
“We've been working it around well, we've been getting our chances for sure, but it's more just bearing down on those open nets,” said Eberle. “We just need to play the power play system that Tim (Hunter)'s teaching us, but also do a bit of our own thing and get more pucks through.”
The Warriors and Blades hit the ice at 7:05pm. You can catch all the action live on Country 100, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 6:40pm.
Tribe Falls Short In Tight Battle In Edmonton
A hard fought game Sunday didn’t go the way the Moose Jaw Warriors had hoped for. The tribe worked and battled hard but came up short, falling 3-1 to the defending Memorial Cup Champion Edmonton Oil Kings to wrap up their Central Division road trip.
Edmonton pressed in the opening moments, spending the first minute of the game inside the Warriors line and attacking goalie Zach Sawchenko. The 16-year-old and the rest of the team weathered the Edmonton storm and then started to create pressure of their own as the period went on.
Moose Jaw’s fore-check did a good job of creating turnovers, which resulted in notable scoring opportunities for Kolten Olynek, Spenser Jensen, and Brayden Point. However, just like Sawchenko, Edmonton goalie Tristan Jarry made big saves when needed to keep the game scoreless after one.
Early in the second period the Warriors dodged a bullet. After a neutral zone turnover, Edmonton pushed across the Warriors line in a hurry, Mitchell Water’s shot beat Sawchenko, but after the officials discussed the play they said “no goal” as Edmonton was offside.
A couple of minutes later, 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup MVP Edgars Kulda controlled the puck along the Warriors end boards. He spun away from a defenceman along the goal line then snapped a shot top shelf to give Edmonton the lead.
The rest of the second period remained tight, as both teams battled for room on the ice to create. There was scoring chances throughout the frame, but the goalies made numerous saves to keep the game tight.
In the third period the battles continued everywhere on the ice, along the boards, in the neutral zone, and in the attacking and defending zones. Both teams were budging much, they limited their mistakes and the goalies made key saves when needed.
With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Edmonton found some breathing room. Brett Pollack led a rush across the Warrior line where he set up Lane Bauer for a quick shot that found the back of the net.
Down a pair the Warriors didn’t fade away. With their net empty and just over ninety seconds remaining, Brayden Point muscled his way off the Oil Kings left wall, he set up Jack Rodewald for a laser beam shot that beat Jarry.
In the dying moments the Warriors again pulled their goalie, but Edmonton blocked a Warrior shot and then set up Tyler Robertson who skated the puck in to an empty net to seal the Warriors fate.
Goalie Zach Sawchenko made 32 saves in the loss, and was named the game’s first star. Edmonton goalie Tristan Jarry made 24 saves and took top star honours. The Warriors were 0-for-4 on the power play and didn’t give Edmonton any opportunities for a man advantage.
Moose Jaw finished their Central Division road trip with a 0-3 record, moving their overall record to 6-7-0-1 on the year. The tribe will have Monday off to recharge their batteries before heading to Saskatoon Tuesday for their second meeting of the season against the Blades. Moose Jaw’s next home game is Friday against Prince Albert, which happens to be Halloween.
Fans are encouraged to dress up for the evening, children in costume get in free with the purchase of an adult ticket. There will also be roughly 30 locations for children to go trick-or-treating, including the suites in the upper level during the first intermission, the Mosaic Place Box Office, and the Crushed Can Retail Store.
Moose Jaw Starters: G-Zach Sawchenko, D-Alexey Sleptsov & Taylor Green, LW-Jayden Halbgewachs, C-Brayden Point, RW-Jack Rodewald
Moose Jaw Scratches: Tyler Brown, Noah Gregor, Austin Adam, Reid Zalitach
Edmonton Starters: G-Tristan Jarry, D-Ashton Sautner & Aaron Irving, LW-Tyler Robertson, C-Brandon Baddock, RW-Edgars Kulda
Edmonton Scratches: Brayden Brown, Davis Koch, Mads Eller, Ben Carroll
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