Warriors Open Season In Swift Current
The Moose Jaw Warriors head into the Credit Union Iplex on Friday night to take on the Swift Current Broncos in their regular season opener.
After two years on the outside looking in for the WHL playoffs, the Moose Jaw Warriors are confident that this year will mark a return to the post-season.
The Warriors open the regular season on Friday night in Swift Current where they will play the first of 72 games on the road to the post-season.
“We’re well prepared for our first game, no question,” said head coach Tim Hunter after wrapping up practice on Thursday at the Kinsmen Arena. “We ran through a lot of our systems as we went through training camp, we’ve covered everything and the guys know where they’re suppose to be in all situations.”
Hunter was brought on board in July as the team’s new head coach and will be looking to lead the squad back into the playoffs during his first season. He has a skilled squad to work with and plans on letting the players put that skill on display.
“It’s not graph paper hockey where A goes here and B goes there,” he said. “It is hockey, they get to think and get to be creative and that’s the game that we’re going to play.”
When the regular season opens, the Warriors will remain a young team with three 16-year-olds and six 17-year-olds on the opening day roster. Those players are bringing with them a lot of skill however and the team is expecting to play some exciting hockey, win or lose this season.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are pretty quick, smart players and they even have some size and I feel like they can generate some offence for us,” said defenceman Reid Zalitach. “We’re all excited to get going and we’re excited to see how all of our work pays off in the beginning of the season.”
The Warriors group of young forwards will be led by 16-year-old centre Brett Howden into the opener. The 2013 fifth overall pick has been impressive throughout training camp and the preseason. He’s ready to get the real games underway though.
“All of us have been working hard over the past couple of weeks getting ready for this big day and big game,” said Howden. “Last year I was just added on for a few games, but this year, I’m here for good and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Moose Jaw won’t have their full roster for the opening weekend series against the Broncos as four players — Brayden Point, Jack Rodewald, Tanner Eberle and Dallas Valentine — are at NHL main camps.
Hunter is confident in the team that they have right now and feels that they will be able to get the job done.
“This team is a capable team of winning every night,” he said. “We’re going to have the luxury of getting guys back hopefully and if not, we move with the guys we have. This group is going to prove that they can play in the Western Hockey League.”
For the opening weekend, the Broncos will also be without three of their top four defencemen, who remain at NHL camps as well. The Warriors will look to take advantage of that and get off to a strong start to the season.
“No matter who’s playing, we’re going to take it hard to them and we’re going to stick to our game, our game plan and what Tim has taught us and we’ll do good,” said Howden.
“(Tim) likes us making plays and being creative, and that’s what we’ve been practicing lots over the last couple of weeks. We’re ready for (Friday) night and it’s going to be lots of fun.”
The Warriors will send Justin Paulic between the pipes for the opening game in Swift Current and then have Zach Sawchenko in net for the home opener on Saturday at Mosaic Place. Hunter said the plan is to rotate the two goalies to start the season.
“We’ve told them that and they know the plan moving forward,” he said. “We wanted to let them know and give them both games at the beginning of the season so that they’re both prepared.”
Moose Jaw and Swift Current hit the ice at the Credit Union Iplex on Friday night at 7:00pm. You can tune into all the action live on Country 100 with Voice of the Warriors, James Gallo. It all gets started with the pre-game show at 6:40pm.
Warriors Busy Off The Ice Heading Into Home Opener
The WHL regular season opens on Friday night and the Moose Jaw Warriors are getting set to kick-off their home schedule on Saturday when the Swift Current Broncos come to town.
It's shaping up to be an exciting year for the tribe as the team looks to make their way back into the post-season, while at the same time, celebrating 30 years in Moose Jaw.
The team has a number events planned around the 30th anniversary, but are also working to improve the game day experience for each of the 36 home dates this season.
It starts with the home opener on Saturday night as the team has some excitement planned before the Warriors even hit the ice with a tailgate party outside of First Avenue entrance at Mosaic Place.
“We've shut down the street and are inviting all the fans to come down,” said Corey Nyhagen, director of business operations with the Warriors. “There's a free burger and pop, all you need is to show your game ticket and just be down and be a part of the excitement leading up to the game.”
The barbeque will be running from 4-6:00pm on Saturday before the home opener and then will lead into the pre-game ceremonies on the ice, which Nyhagen didn't want to reveal too much about just yet.
“We put on a little bit of a show at the beginning with some wow factor to it,” he said. “We do like to have everybody there because we do turn off the lights before the show, so it's just best to have everybody in their seats earlier.”
The home opener is expected to be just the start of the fun this year for the Warriors with the Hall of Fame Weekend back again in November and 30th anniversary celebrations throughout the season.
“There's a few different surprises that we have,” said Nyhagen. “One neat thing that we've done this year is we've installed new software programming along all the concourse and up in the club level, where it's now going to allow our system to run the game feed on every TV in the arena there, so if you're standing in line, you'll be able to still watch the feed on the screens.”
The Warriors are also focusing on their young fans and making the game more enjoyable for the kids in attendance at Mosaic Place. The team has partnered with Moose Jaw Co-op to develop the Kids Zone.
“It's in the southeast corner and we've actually installed a 10-foot by 20-foot mini-stick rink is going in there,” said Nyhagen. “With that zone, we're going to be having special events in there, special guest appearances and there's special food pricing for members.”
The Kids Zone is free to sign up for and a free gift is provided on sign-up from the Co-op.
“It's really a nice area for the kids to go if they're not wanting to sit in their seats at the time and watch the game,” Nyhagen said. “It's a place where parents can go, let their kids have some fun in the area in a controlled environment.”
The section leaders were introduced last season and after a year of growth, Nyhagen said they're expecting that program to only grow going forward this year as they worked out some kinks from last season.
“It's a successful work in progress for us,” he said. “It's really about them getting to know the people within their sections and starting that whole culture of having our fans in their sections knowing that they can go to our section leaders and arming the section leaders with the information that they need at the games.”
The Warriors are still looking for people to help out with their game day execution and Nyhagen added that you can stop by the Warriors' office and speak with Rachel Sproule about what they're looking for.
He also added that they have new special ticket packages available with more information at the Warrior office.
The Warriors open the regular season on Friday night in Swift Current and then they take on the Broncos at home on Saturday. A reminder to be in your seat by 6:45pm for the pre-game ceremony.
Duperreault Fine Tuning His Game
18-year-old forward Ben Duperreault in action with the Moose Jaw Warriors last season.
For Ben Duperreault's entire hockey career, he's always been one of the most skilled players on his team. Now at the WHL level, he has to play a different game and he's okay with that.
Duperreault is entering his second season with the Moose Jaw Warriors and is coming into the year focused on improving his play without the puck in an effort to help the Warriors put up some more wins this season.
The 18-year-old's rookie season was strong offensively, as Duperreault posted six goals and 18 points in 65 games, while playing mostly in the bottom-six. However, Duperreault – along with the majority of the Warriors' roster – finished the year on the wrong side of the plus/minus, at a minus-13. That's something he wants to change.
“I don't want to be a minus player this year and that's what I was last year,” Duperreault said. “I definitely want to be in the plus and just be real solid in my defensive zone.”
Following in the steps of teammate Torrin White would be a good move for Duperreault. Similar to White, Duperreault is a smaller forward that isn't afraid to battle in the corners and has skill on the offensive end. White has transformed himself into one of the top two-way players on the Warriors over the past few years.
“It's a huge part of the game and that's definitely one thing that I need to work on is for sure the defensive side of my game, I really want to get that down,” he said. “I just have to really listen to the coaches and watch other players, and even other teams to see what they do to be solid in their own end.”
While every player wants to play in the top-six, Duperreault knows that with the depth at forward that Moose Jaw has this season, playing a defensive role could be his key to staying in the lineup each night.
“I'll do anything as long as we're winning,” he said. “I want to win this year, it would be great to be in the playoffs.”
The Warriors are coming off back-to-back years out of the post-season, which hadn't happened in 20 years. Duperreault is confident in what he's seeing out of this year's squad heading into the regular season.
“As a team, we look pretty solid, I think we're going to do well this year,” he said. “We definitely have a lot more chemistry this year as we're a bit older now, so I think going into the season, we'll be ready to fly.”
Duperreault, along with the rest of the team, is still trying to find his way under new head coach Tim Hunter, but he said he's enjoying playing for the long-time NHL veteran.
“I'm adjusting quick and he's a good coach,” said Duperreault. “He definitely likes a skilled offensive game. He really likes working in the other (team's) end and it's a fun system to play.”
The Warriors have one day of practice left before they travel to Swift Current to open the regular season against the Broncos. The home opener is on Saturday with the Broncos making their way to Mosaic Place.
Four Warriors Advance To NHL Main Camps
Forward Tanner Eberle loads up a shot during preseason action with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Moose Jaw Warriors will be missing four veteran players from their lineup when they open the regular season on Friday night in Swift Current.
Brayden Point, Tanner Eberle, Jack Rodewald and Dallas Valentine have all moved on to their respective NHL main camps.
Point had a strong weekend with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the rookie showcase tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. He scored once and added two assists in three games for the Lightning.
It didn't come as a surprise that the 2014 third round selection moved on to main camp as the Lightning were high on the Warriors' star centre coming out of the draft. He was playing on a line with 2013 second overall pick Jonathan Drouin throughout the tournament.
After a solid showing at Montreal Canadiens' rookie camp last year, Eberle was invited back this year and was able to secure one of 64 spots on the main camp roster. The 20-year-old is looking for a pro contract, which would allow him to play in the American Hockey League this season.
Rodewald and Valentine were both free agent invites to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Michigan.
Rodewald, a 20-year-old forward, was held without a point in three games with the Buffalo Sabres. He finished with three shots, even in the plus/minus rating and picked up two penalty minutes.
Like Eberle, Rodewald is also looking for a pro contract that would allow him to play in the AHL this season.
After attending development camp over the summer with the Minnesota Wild, Valentine picked up an invite from the New York Rangers to Traverse City and performed well enough to advance to main camp.
He was a minus-two in three games with three shots.
All four camps get underway on Friday, which also happens to be the opening day of the regular season for the Warriors.
Adam Pleasant Surprise For Warriors
Austin Adam carries the puck up ice during Sunday's preseason finale against the Brandon Wheat Kings at Mosaic Place. (Photo: Stephen Simon/MJ Warriors)
When the Moose Jaw Warriors traded for Austin Adam in June, they knew they were getting a big bodied defenceman, but he’s surprised many people over the course of training camp and the preseason.
The six-foot-five 19-year-old has played 127 games in three seasons with the Everett Silvertips, but hadn’t quite developed how expected, posting 11 points and minus-35 rating in those games.
Since coming to Moose Jaw however, Adam has exceeded the Warriors expectations and earned a spot among the team’s defensive core heading into the regular season.
“I had lots of fun in training camp, its been a bit different change with a new coach, but we’re getting our systems in place and are on the right track heading into the regular season,” said Adam.
Adam is looking more and more like a player that is benefitting from a change of scenery after playing three seasons under Kevin Constantine in Everett.
Adam has noticed the contrast in style between his former head coach and new bench boss here in Moose Jaw, Tim Hunter.
“They’re two different styles of coaching, I really like Tim so far, he’s a really good player coach and it should be good this year,” said Adam on Monday after the Warriors’ wrapped up the preseason on the weekend.
When you see Adam, you think prototypical big defenceman, but that’s been the biggest surprise so far as he skates much better than expected for a player with his size.
He’s been able to show off that skating skill right from the opening day of main camp and through three preseason games with the tribe.
“I’ve been trying to play my game and my skating I’ve tried to incorporate more into my game because I can skate (well),” said Adam.
The Warriors are hoping that Adam can be a strong, veteran addition to a backend that is still developing and learning to play at the WHL level. Adam will be counted on to be a leader as the oldest defenceman in the group.
“I like being in a leadership role and being my fourth year in the league, I like to show the younger guys and teach them the ways,” said Adam. “I like to be a leader on and off the ice, I’m not a very vocal guy, but I like to lead by example.”
After about a month together in preparation for the start of the regular season later this week, Adam said that the team is coming together nicely.
“We’ve got a good group of guys, everybody gets along with each other, we all hang out with each other outside the rink, so it should be a good year,” he said. “It’s good to get that out of the way now, so everybody is familiar with each other when the season starts.”
With the regular season just four days away, the Warriors will be at the rink throughout the week putting the final touches on their game plan heading into the opener on Friday in Swift Current.
“We’ve just got to keep working on our systems, the systems are big part of the game, so as long as we keep working on our systems and details, we’ll keep progression the way that we want to and we’ll be ready for the regular season,” Adam said.
“We’ve got a lot of skill, we’ve got a lot of good players on our team, so it should be an exciting year.”
The Warriors head to Swift Current on Friday and then host the Broncos on Saturday at Mosaic Place for the regular season home opener.
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