Warriors Aim To End Regina Woes

Warriors-Pats-Oct19-2Jack Rodewald, right, squares off with his former team last season against the Regina Pats.

The Moose Jaw Warriors couldn't buy a win against the biggest rival last season as the Regina Pats won all eight meetings between the two teams.

The tribe will be looking to change that in their third game of the season on Friday night at Mosaic Place. Both the Warriors and Pats enter the game looking for their first win of the season after dropping both games on the opening weekend – Moose Jaw falling to Swift Current and Regina to Brandon.

“We've been positive all week,” said assistant captain Jack Rodewald. “This early in the season, you have to keep a short mind and really just focus up on these next games, Regina and Saskatoon another couple of divisional games, so we just have to be better than last weekend.”

Coming off last weekend's losses, the Warriors were disappointed in failing to come away with points in either game, but not with how they played. The team felt that they stuck to their game plan and will be looking to build off that going into this weekend.

“We just need to use our speed and our skill,” said Rodewald. “Up front, we have a lot of depth this year as compared to last year and it's just about every line doing what they're good at every night and if we do that, we'll have a good chance of winning.”

Emotions always get flowing when the Pats and Warriors meet up. The Warriors have some extra motivation after the struggles against Regina last season and they'll be aiming to start the season series off on strong footing this year.

“They're a pretty big rival of ours and we've got to go hard every game against them,” said defenceman Dallas Valentine, who returned from New York Rangers' training camp this week. “We can't afford to lose that many games to teams in our own division, so we're going to come out hard this year and show them what we've got.”

While the Warriors are going into the game looking to avenge last season's struggles, the two teams have underwent plenty of changes since last season. The Pats will be without veteran forwards Dyson Stevenson, Chandler Stephenson and Morgan Klimchuk, but they will be getting back captain Kyle Burroughs and have added in 16-year-old Sam Steel.

Moose Jaw is still missing Tanner Eberle who remains away at Montreal Canadiens training camp. They've seen captain Brayden Point and Valentine return this week and will also have 16-year-old forward Brett Howden added to the mix.

“It's definitely going to be in the back of our mind what they did to use last year, but we can't do it as a revenge match, we just have to play our game,” said Rodewald. “We know them really well and we just brought in a new player (Linden Penner), he's a big body and he's really going to help us out.”

The Warriors could be without forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Noah Gregor for Friday night's tilt. Gregor hasn't practiced all week, while Yakubowski has been sporting a non-contact jersey when skating with the team. Both are expected to be game-day decisions.

The rivalry heats back up on Friday night at 7:00pm. Tune into Country 100 for all the action with Voice of the Warriors James Gallo, Derek Kletzel and Marc Smith. They hit the air at 6:40pm for the Pre-Game Show.

Valentine Returns From Big Apple

When Dallas Valentine headed away to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament with the New York Rangers, not many people were expecting the big defenceman to stick with the team past the rookie tournament, not even him.

“I wasn't really expecting to stay that long,” said Valentine after practice on Thursday, his first back with the Warriors. “They only sent one guy home after Traverse City, so the rest of us stayed there, practiced and got to experience a little bit of the pro life, so it was good.”

Valentine went to Traverse City as a free agent tryout. He impressed enough to be invited to main camp with the defending Eastern Conference champions where he got to hit the ice with some top NHLers, as well as former Warriors defenceman Dylan McIlrath.

Valentine felt he performed well at the camp and left a good impression with the team.

“I just felt like I got better everyday and they saw my progress,” he said. “I was just controlling the puck, making hard passes, listening and trying to get better. They liked me, so I stuck around for a little while.”

After getting exposed to professional hockey, Valentine said he knows where he needs to take his game going forward to get to that level.

“It gives me a perspective of where I need to be in terms of making it to the next level and what I need to do this year to get better and go back next year and have another shot at it,” said the 18-year-old defenceman.

Point Named Captain... Brayden Point joined a special group on Thursday when he was named the 30th captain in Moose Jaw Warriors' history. He's one of the few players to wear the 'C' for the tribe at the age of 18, joining Mark Hussey. Click here for more on the Warriors' leadership group.

Brayden Point Named Warriors Captain

Warriors-PointRodewald-Sep5Brayden Point, front, will serve as captain this season for the Moose Jaw Warriors, while Jack Rodewald will be an assistant captain.

Brayden Point’s jersey will have a new look this season. The third-year forward from Calgary has been named the 30th captain in Moose Jaw Warriors' history.

Jack Rodewald and Jaimen Yakubowski will serve as assistant captains for the 2014-15 season, starting on Friday when the Warriors host the Regina Pats at Mosaic Place.

Point selected 14th overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft and made his debut near the end of the 2011-2012 regular season. In the 2012 Playoffs, Point had seven goals and ten point in 14 games. Among those goals was three game winners, including one in double overtime against the Regina Pats and another coming in overtime in the second round to eliminate the Medicine Hat Tigers.

As a rookie in 2012-2013, Point had 24 goals, 33 assists, and 57 points which was the highest point total among 1996-born players in the WHL. Last season he led the Warriors in scoring with 36 goals and 91 points in 72 games, and was once again the highest scoring player in his age group.

Point has played for Team Canada on several occasions, he won gold at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and bronze at the 2014 World Under-18 Championships, and he took part in Canada’s 2014 World Junior Summer Development Camp.

Point had the opportunity to play in the 2014 CHL Top Prospects Game, which was held in his hometown. He was selected by Tampa Bay 79th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and was recently reassigned to the Warriors after taking part in his first rookie and main camp with the Lightning.

Rodewald is from Winnipeg and was acquired from Regina before the start of last season. In 58 games in 2013-2014, Rodewald posted career highs in goals (28), assists (27), and points (55), which more than doubled his totals from the previous two seasons combined.

Rodewald is entering his fourth and final season in the WHL, in 185 career games he has 41 goals and 82 points. He was reassigned to the Warriors opening weekend after attending his first NHL rookie and main camp with the Buffalo Sabres.

Yakubowski was acquired by the Warriors during the off-season from the Seattle Thunderbirds, and this marks the first time in his WHL that the Dalmeny, SK product will be based in his home province.

He was drafted by Lethbridge in the 4th round of the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, in his rookie season with the Hurricanes (2011-2012) he had 16 goals and 28 points. His best offensive season came his second year when he scored 32 goals and finished with 50 points in 66 games with the Hurricanes. Last season he was traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds where he had nine goals, 18 points, and 128 penalty minutes in 47 games.

Yakubowski brings a wealth of experience, he’s dressed in 194 regular season games, and he has 59 goals, 98 points, and 392 career penalty minutes.

Warriors Trade For Penner

Warriors-Penner-Trade-Sep24Linden Penner in action with the Calgary Hitmen last season. (Photo courtesy of MJ Warriors)

The Moose Jaw Warriors’ forward group will have a bit more size going forward after a deal with the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday.

The tribe acquired six-foot-three forward Linden Penner from the Hitmen in exchange for a conditional sixth round pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

“We’ve been looking for this type of player for a little bit of time now,” said Alan Millar, Warriors’ general manager.  “We talk about balance and depth in our lineup and we feel he complements our real well.”

The Warriors have been adding more and more size up front throughout the offseason with Jack Rodewald, Brett Howden, Jiri Smejkal, Tanner Jeannot and Ethan Lazaro all standing over six-feet.  Penner will add to that.

“He gives us a good presence in there and he’s a real good complement to some of our younger, smaller players,” said Millar.  “The big body and experience — he played on a good team in Calgary last year — and we think he can help us.”

Penner, 19, made his WHL debut last season and finished with four goals, eight points and 33 penalty minutes in 39 games as he battled some injuries. 

“He was back at the end of the season and played in the playoffs,” said Millar.  “We got a chance to watch him in their opening game on Saturday night, so he was limited last year, but ready to go this year for us now.”

Originally drafted in the tenth round, 218th overall, by the Saskatoon Blades, Penner had a strong offensive season at the junior A level two years ago when he put up 14 goals and 34 points in 40 games with the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines.

The Sherwood Park, AB native also attended the Calgary Flames’ 2013 spring development camp and put up two goals in an intra-squad game.  

The Warriors are expecting him to provide an edge to their lineup and help take some of the load off the younger players in the lineup.

Millar said Penner is excited about the opportunity ahead of him here in Moose Jaw.

“He understands that it’s a good opportunity here for him,” Millar said.  “He seemed real eager and excited about getting on the road and being a part of what we’re doing here.”

Penner is expected to be at practice with the Warriors on Thursday.  The tribe host the Regina Pats on Friday night at Mosaic Place.

Point Learns From Pro Experience

Warriors-Point-Oct14Brayden Point unleashes a shot for the Moose Jaw Warriors last season. (Photo: Cory Kerr Photography)

Brayden Point arrived back in Moose Jaw on Wednesday afternoon and wasted no time getting back on the ice with his Warrior teammates.

The star centre was returned to the Warriors on Tuesday by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning after spending the last two weeks at his first professional training camp.

Point went right from the plane to the Warriors’ locker room and onto the ice for the second half of Wednesday’s practice at Mosaic Place.

“It was good to be able to come out and get the second half of practice and right back into being a Warrior,” said Point.

His presence was no doubt a welcome one at Warriors’ practice after the team lost both their opening weekend games.  Point said while he was away, he was never too far from the team.

“I kept tabs with the guys and definitely watched games,” he said.  “I was never away from the Warriors, but it’s good to be back for sure.”

Point was taken in the third round, 79th overall, by the Lightning in this June’s NHL Entry Draft.  He went into rookie camp two weeks ago looking to impress the Lightning brass and did just that as he scored and picked up two assists in three games at rookie tournament in Nashville, Tennessee.

That performance earned him a trip to main camp with the NHL players and Point said that’s where he was really tested, but he felt he was able to handle that test.

“It was good to see how the pro guys act and what they do off the ice,” he said.  “That was the real big eye opener for me is what they do off the ice and I thought I played well there, so it was a good overall experience.”

Point got the chance to skate with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Brenden Morrow, players that have put together lengthy NHL careers.  He said with a player like Stamkos, the work that he puts in each day off the ice was a real eye opener.

“You see their diet and it’s pretty amazing what they do to keep themselves in shape,” he said.  “It’s amazing how well they prepare before practices even and the stuff they do in the gym.  It’s something that I’m going to work on for sure.”

The size question will never escape Point, despite the fact that he now stands in a five-foot-ten and 163 pounds.  He said he didn’t feel like his size was a hinderance for him at the pro level.

“I’m pretty quick, so that helps me for sure,” said Point.  “Obviously it’s tougher because the guys are bigger and stronger, but my quickness definitely helped me and I felt fine out there.

“The coaches taught me a lot of little things that I can do, being a smaller guy, stuff I can do on the wall, so that’s what I’m going to try to take into my games in Moose Jaw.”

During the rookie tournament, Point centred a line with 2013 second overall pick Jonathan Drouin on his wing.  He said they were able to gel pretty quickly and he learnt a lot from the talented top prospect.

“He’s a guy that could stick there this year, so it was pretty cool,” Point said.  “He’s a smart player and he’s obviously unbelievable, so it was pretty easy to play with him.”

While trying to take in everything around him, Point was also able to show the Lightning that they got plenty of value with their third round selection in June.

“I left a pretty good impression on them and they were happy with me in my exit meetings, so it was good,” Point said.  “They didn’t tell me anything specific, just work hard, do the work in the gym and stuff like that.  It’s all about improvements in the development camp, so nothing too specific for in the season.”

However, Point is confident that the experience he gained at the camp will be able to help him going into his third full season in Moose Jaw.

“I feel in shape, playing there gets you in shape pretty quick, so I feel game ready and I don’t think I’ll have a slow start to the season,” he said.

Point will be thrown right into the fire with the Warriors hosting the rival Regina Pats on Friday night and then another East Division opponent in the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday.

Valentine Returning… Big defenceman Dallas Valentine is on his way back to Moose Jaw from New York Rangers training camp.  Valentine was released from his free agent tryout agreement on Wednesday and should be back on the ice with the team on Thursday.

That leaves 20-year-old forward Tanner Eberle as the lone Warrior still away at an NHL camp as he remains at Montreal Canadiens camp.

Warriors Acquire Penner… The Warriors swung a deal on Wednesday afternoon as they acquired 19-year-old forward Linden Penner from the Calgary Hitmen for a conditional sixth round pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.  Click here for more on the trade.

Warriors Cleaning Up After Losses

Warriors-Jensen-Jan10-219-year-old defenceman Spenser Jensen in action last season with the Warriors.

The opening weekend was disappointing for the Moose Jaw Warriors, not because they didn't play well, but because the team failed to capitalize on their chances and come away with a win in either of their two games against the Swift Current Broncos.

The Warriors played well enough to win in both games on Friday and Saturday, but ended up on the losing end both nights thanks to missed opportunities.

“We played our game, we played well, we gave Swift Current more than they could handle, but it just didn't go our way,” said head coach Tim Hunter after Tuesday's practice at Mosaic Place. “We've got to keep building on our game and the way we want to play and we'll get results.”

The scoring chances came in bunches for the Warriors, but they were constantly turned away by Swift Current goalie Landon Bow, who stopped 69-of-71 shots that the tribe threw on goal in the two games. The majority of the chances came off the rush, which is a good sign as Hunter has been preaching to the team about using their skill while entering the zone.

“We'll find our scoring touch,” Hunter said. “If you get as many scoring chances and as many entries with possession that we had, we'll be fine. We've just got to keep doing that and good things will happen for us.”

The area that the Warriors will be looking to cleanup this week is the defensive zone and the goals that the Broncos were able to score while entering the Moose Jaw zone. Swift Current scored 11 goals in the two games.

“There's a few details where we had a missed assignment, a miss read and the puck ends up in our net because we don't play the situation right, but there's no one guy or two guys or five guys at fault, it's the whole team,” said Hunter. “We'll work on it all together as a group and try to get better from it.”

Coming back into the zone as one group was the focus for the Warriors during practice on Tuesday as they worked in a number of back check drills with the players pushing the pace during the two-hour workout.

“As a whole team, we can all be better defensively,” said 19-year-old defenceman Spenser Jensen. “We all can be a little bit better, that's too many goals, so we've got to clean that up when we're working in practice this week.

“We need to be playing as a six-man unit in the D-zone with the goaltender to defend those chances and we've got work on burring our chances as well.”

Throughout camp, there was a lot of talk off the ice around how the Warriors were going to play offensively and the strides they were making, but not much focus was given to the defence. Hunter said they've been just as focused on preparing the defensive game.

“Offence is important, but if you can't get our of your own end, can't play well in your own end, then you can't go have fun in the other team's end, so you've got to play defence first,” he said. “Just a couple of opportunities that we let slip by in our end and they ended up in our net. With better efforts here and there, we'll be fine.”

Despite the two losses, the Warriors are coming away from the opening weekend encouraged with where they're at heading into another two game weekend in the East Division.

“We had a lot of chances in both games, but we just couldn't really capitalize on them, so that's something that we need to work on as we get ready for Regina on Friday,” said Jensen.

The Warriors host the Pats on Friday night and the Saskatoon Blades come to town on Saturday.

Point Reassigned... One of the three Moose Jaw Warriors away at NHL training camps is on his way back to the Friendly City. Brayden Point was reassigned on Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Lightning and will be back on the ice at Mosaic Place on Wednesday.

Tanner Eberle and Dallas Valentine remain away at their respective camps.

Warriors Notes... Goalie Justin Paulic returned to practice on Tuesday after missing Monday's workout, while 16-year-old forward Noah Gregor was sidelined again on Tuesday for the second straight day... 20-year-old forward Jaimen Yakubowski was sporting non-contact yellow jersey during practice on Tuesday.

WHL Notes... The Calgary Hitmen had a busy Tuesday afternoon as they swung two deals to bring their roster down to three overage players. First, the Hitmen sent forward Mike Winther to Kamloops for two picks and then dealt import Pavel Padakin to the Regina Pats for a 2017 third round pick. Regina released forward Maximilian Kammerer after the move to free up an import spot on their roster.

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