The Most Important Weekend Of The Season
Sam Fioretti is hoping to lead the Warriors to a pair of wins this weekend.
Sitting ten points out of a playoff spot with six games to go before the Christmas break, the Moose Jaw Warriors need to make a push.
“This might be the most important weekend of the season so far,” said captain Sam Fioretti before practice on Thursday afternoon. “These are two teams that we beat if we’re going to make the playoffs and we’re going to try to catch them, so this is definitely a good starting point.”
The Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings are on tap for the Warriors this weekend as they make their way to Mosaic Place on Friday and Saturday respectively. Brandon has an 11-point cushion on the Warriors, while Regina is sitting ten points up and in the final playoff spot.
The first half of the season hasn’t went the way that the tribe was hoping as they sit with an 8-18-3-2 record on the year, but with the midway point of the season just about here there still is hope.
Ten of their 23 total losses on the year so far have come against these two teams, so getting over that hurdle isn’t just big in the standings, but it would also be big for the team’s psyche.
“We haven’t had much success against these two teams, but we haven’t given ourselves a chance to have success,” said Fioretti. “It’s a matter of us playing the right way — the Warrior way — and we haven’t done that so far this year.”
The Warriors are coming off a weekend against Regina and Brandon in which they were outscored 14-5 in two games. Those two games have driven the team through a hard five days of practice with the coaching staff pushing the team to be better coming into this weekend.
In those two games last weekend, the Warriors scored first, but were unable to build off those good starts to find success. In Regina for example, they scored 2:51 into the game, but allowed the Pats to tie just over three minutes later and then scored five more unanswered goals.
“We’ve had good starts, but we’ve thrown it away later in games,” said Fioretti. “I think it’s a matter of playing sixty minutes to have success and that’s what we have to do.
“It comes down to working hard, battling, competing. It wasn’t an easy week of practice, but it was one that was necessary to get ready for this weekend.”
Going into Friday’s Trans-Canada Clash meeting at Mosaic Place, the Warriors have been focusing on their game. They’ve played Regina five times now and know what they’re going to bring to the ice each game.
“We can make our adjustments, but ultimately it’s on us to play our game,” said Fioretti. “We haven’t had success against them because we haven’t played the right way and it’s a matter of us playing our way and with that we will have success.”
The Warriors are hoping that these two games this weekend can be the start of a turnaround for their season before the Christmas break.
You can catch all the action both nights on Country 100, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 6:40pm.
Saturday’s meeting with the Wheat Kings will also mark the annual Teddy Bear and Toque Toss Night. Fans are encouraged to bring plushy toys, toques, mittens and scarves to the game and throw them on the ice when the Warriors score their first goal.
Warriors Leadership Coming Through
Forward Erik Benoit has three goals and four points in seven games since joining the Warriors last month.
It’s been a long week of hard work for the Moose Jaw Warriors after suffering a pair of tough losses against two East Division foes last weekend.
The driving force for the team during their practices has been the fact that they get to face both the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings again this weekend after being outscored 14-5 in last weekend’s losses.
“We’re lucky in that sense that we get to play the same teams again this weekend and we can really prove ourselves,” said overage forward Erik Benoit. “We get to show them our other side, which they never got to see, which is good.”
The Warriors coaches have been pushing the team to give their best effort each day in practice this week, while also learn from the mistakes that were made last weekend and make sure they aren’t repeated coming up this weekend.
“We’re getting put through our paces, we deserve it, we had a rough weekend and we’ve got to make up for it this weekend,” said Benoit.
“It’s all for the benefit of our team. We’ve got a young team and we’ve just got to push through that and work hard and hopefully come out on top this weekend.”
The Warriors lineup has WHL experience, but they are also still a very young team that is learning how to deal with the ups and downs of a WHL season. That’s where Benoit and the other more veteran players on the roster come in.
He said that the entire team knows what needs to be done.
“I try to provide that vocal leadership, just because I’m one of the older guys and have that experience,” said Benoit. “Everyone does a great job of stepping up and leading even though they could be a younger guy. I can use my experience though to help them out a little bit.”
Benoit was apart of the Saskatoon Blades’ squad last year that struggled early in the year under the pressure of hosting the Memorial Cup and he added that’s something he can lean, while helping the Warriors overcome some early season struggles.
This weekend coming up will be big for the Warriors, just as last weekend was, because they’re chasing both Regina and Brandon in the standings. They would like to close the gap a bit on both teams before the Christmas break and just find the win column against their two rivals. Moose Jaw has gone 0-7-1-2 so far against the Pats and Wheat Kings.
Going into the weekend, the one-on-one battles will be the focus for the Warriors as they look to have some success on home ice.
“They worked hard (last weekend) and they out battled us and we’ve just got to make sure we win those one-on-one battles,” said Benoit. “When we dump pucks in, we’ve got to be first on pucks and those are two major things that we need to do.”
The Warriors and Pats square off at 7:00pm on Friday night. You can catch all the action live on Country 100, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 6:40pm. When the Wheat Kings come into town on Saturday, it will be the annual “Teddy Bear & Toque Toss Night”.
Giving Back To Fans & Teddy Bear Toss On Saturday
Josh Uhrich loads up a truck filled with toys, toques and mittens after scoring the Teddy Bear Toss goal last season, which also happened to be his first WHL goal.
There have been some struggles on the ice for the Moose Jaw Warriors through the first half of the season, but the team wants to say “thank you” to the fans for sticking through.
With four home games to go before the Christmas break, the tribe will be hosting the “Four Games of Christmas” over the next two weeks at Mosaic Place.
“What we’re basically doing for that time is it’s the season of giving and in the spirit of giving, we want to give back to our fans that have been coming out and supporting the boys through the first half of the year,” stated Corey Nyhagen, director of business operations with the Warriors.
They’ll be doing that with prize giveaways at the end of each home between this Friday and next Sunday.
“During those four games, everybody in attendance who stays until the end of the third period, we’re going to be making draws on the ice for a bunch of different prizes,” explained Nyhagen. “The major prize at each of those four games will be a trip for two to Las Vegas.”
The other prizes range from gift cards to concert tickets to televisions. “Just some neat different things that are going to appeal to anybody and everybody that’s going to be there,” stated Nyhagen.
The Warriors’ haven’t had much success on home ice so far this season with just four wins in 16 games at Mosaic Place. Nyhagen said this is their way of rewarding their fans for being loyal through those struggles.
“It’s the Christmas season and we’re all about having fun at the games regardless of the outcome, so we figured lets do something in the festive spirit,” he said. “Lets get people cheering and taking the boys right through sixty minutes.”
The draws will be made at the end of each game. “We’ll roll a big bin out on the ice and we’ll be drawing seat numbers,” Nyhagen said. “If you’re there you win and if not, we’ll move onto the next fan that is.”
There’s also a special ticket package available for the four games. Adults can purchase all four games in a set for $60, while students can get theirs for $44 and children 12-and-under are $28.
In addition to this promotion, this Saturday is also the annual Teddy Bear and Toque Toss Night.
Fans are encouraged to bring a plush toy, toque, mittens or scarves to the game and when the Warriors scored their first goal of the night, toss them onto the ice.
“It’s always a big event,” said Nyhagen. “You hold those back and when we score, let them fly and we want everybody to fill the ice up so we can supply the Salvation Army with those items.”
Last year, over 1,300 toys and close to 50 toques, mittens and scarves were donated through the toss her in Moose Jaw.
Local volunteers will help clean the ice up after the goal and to help speed up the process, fans are asked to put the toques and mittens into a plastic, or Ziploc, bag.
The Warriors host the Regina Pats on Friday night and then the Brandon Wheat Kings will be back in town on Saturday for the Teddy Bear and Toque Toss Night.
Warriors Cleaning Up Defensive Zone
Warriors defenceman Jesse Forsberg.
The defensive game for the Moose Jaw Warriors left plenty to be desired last weekend. They gave up 14 goals in two games against the Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats, and lot of the goals weren’t of the highlight reel variety.
Most of the goals came off turnovers that the Warriors committed inside their own blue line, which allowed more shots and extended time on the attack for the opposition.
Cleaning up that area of their game is without a doubt something that the tribe will be focused on this week during practice at Mosaic Place.
“Obviously when you let that many goals get scored on, your defensive zone is definitely something that you need to look at,” said overage defenceman Jesse Forsberg.
The Warriors had trouble coming out of their zone in both games over the weekend, failing on their first, second and sometimes third attempts to move on the attack.
“That’s definitely been addressed, it was obviously huge. When you can’t get out of your own then you’re playing in your own end the whole time and that’s how they scored,” said Forsberg. “We’ve got to address that this week and really work towards making sure we can break pucks out this weekend.”
A good point Forsberg did make though is that an improved offensive game can also help them when it comes to the defensive zone, and spending less time playing on the heels. The Warriors managed only 14 shots against the Pats, despite scoring the first goal against a 16-year-old goalie making his second WHL start.
“When you play a lot of the top end teams it’s all about puck possession and that’s something that’s definitely preached to us is to keep the puck and make good plays with it,” said Forsberg. “We just didn’t do that last weekend.”
Part of helping themselves defensive could come with just not being in their own zone.
Moving out of their zone more smoothly and keeping the puck in their opponents end also comes down to winning the one-on-one battles, something that Forsberg feels they didn’t do a good job of during their two losses to Brandon and Regina.
“That’s an identity that this organization has always had is a team that really battles and to win games in this league that’s something that you’ve got to do,” he said. “Last weakend we obviously didn’t do what we needed to do, so this weekend that’s going to be key.”
The physical game came in spurts for the Warriors over the weekend and when it was there they controlled the play, but it wasn’t there enough. Forsberg said they need to be more consistent in that area.
“We’ve got to come out in the first and second and establish that as our game, so we want to bring that right away (each night),” he added.
The Warriors will have a couple more days to work on their game before they face-off with the Regina Pats on Friday night at Mosaic Place. The Brandon Wheat Kings are in town on Saturday for the annual “Teddy Bear and Toque Toss Night”.
Leafs Not Sending Rielly To World Jrs
Morgan Rielly has eight assists in 21 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
Morgan Rielly will be one and done at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Hockey Canada released the 25-player selection camp roster on Monday morning and it didn’t include the former Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman, who is now in his NHL rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs have been adamant that they would not be lending Rielly to Team Canada for the annual holiday tournament. They haven’t made it official, but it’s been clear that Rielly wasn’t going anywhere.
“We felt we have six defencemen here and he was going to play,” Randy Carlyle, Maple Leafs head coach, told reporters after practice on Monday. “We feel that he can play here and he can make a contribution and he’s growing into an NHL hockey player.”
“I knew that if I played here this year, in Toronto, that there would be a pretty good chance that I wouldn’t end up going over to Europe to play in that tournament,” stated Rielly. “I play here and my priorities are here in Toronto.”
The 19-year-old defenceman posted one goal and three points with Team Canada last year as they lost in the bronze medal game. While he wanted another chance to represent his country, he knows that he now has a job to do in the NHL.
“It’s always nice to play for your country and I had a blast when I was able to do it,” said Rielly. “I’ll be cheering them on and hopefully they have a chance to win gold.”
Rielly is in a different situation than Mathew Dumba, who is being lent to Team Canada from his NHL team. Dumba has played sparingly for the Minnesota Wild so far this year, dressing in 13 games compared to the 21 games that Rielly has played with the Leafs.
This will be the first time since 2009 that Team Canada doesn’t include a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors. The run started with Travis Hamonic in 2010 followed by Quinton Howden in 2011 and 2012, before Rielly represented the organization in 2013.
There will be four players returning to the Team Canada roster from last year’s team. 2013 third overall pick Jonathan Drouin had four pointsin six games last year. He’ll be joined by Griffin Reinhart, goaltender Jake Paterson and Charles Hudon, who was injured before the tournament.
The 25-man roster, which has to be whittled down to 22 by Christmas Day, includes nine WHL players, nine from the OHL and six from the QMJHL.
Two Saskatchewan players are among those invited to the selection camp with former AAA Warriors defenceman Derrick Pouliot from Weyburn and Saskatoon’s Taylor Leier getting a shot to represent Canada. They both play for the Portland Winterhawks.
The selection camp starts on December 12th in Etobicoke, Ontario from there Canada’s final roster will be finalized before the start of the tournament on December 26th in Malmo, Sweden.
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