Team Play Leads to Wins for Warriors
Warriors forward Axel Blomqvist exchanges words with Kootenay forward Tim Bozon at the end of Wednesday's game. (Photo: Stephen Simon/MJ Warriors)
The Moose Jaw Warriors showed some fight back on Wednesday night against the Kootenay Ice.
Needing a win over the Ice to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Warriors went out on Wednesday and clawed their way to a 4-3 win over the visiting Ice at Mosaic Place.
“That's our second straight win, so that's a step in the right direction and I thought the boys played hard to get that one,” said captain Brayden Point, who potted the fourth hat trick of his WHL career.
Point provided the offence, but the Warriors all chipped in for the win.
After struggling last week, goalie Zach Sawchenko turned away 30 shots for his first win in three starts. Defenceman Dallas Valentine chipped in with two assists for his second straight multi-point game.
“Games like that brings a group together,” said assistant coach Mark O'Leary. “We did a real good job of sticking together as a five-man unit on the ice and it's games like this that we're going to have to win if we want to be a playoff team.”
The game had a playoff feel to it with both teams having a lot on the line. The loss was the fourth straight for Kootenay and allowed the Warriors to move within three points of the Ice for the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The biggest change for the Warriors from their three-game losing streak that started last week was consistency. They were able to carry over the success from Saturday's 4-3 win over Edmonton into Wednesday night.
They brought over emotion as well with the game getting more and more chippy as the night progressed.
“We're wanting to win and it's definitely starting to show,” said Point. “A lot of guys are starting to pay the price and out battle the other team.
“We've just got to keep competing, keep working hard and keep battling.”
The game was no doubt a showdown between Point and Ice captain Sam Reinhart with the two players trading goals in the third period. Point put Moose Jaw up 4-2 midway through the period, but Reinhart answered right back 1:01 later to make it a one-goal game the rest of the way.
Kootenay never stopped coming, but the Warriors withstood the push from the Ice to prevail in the game, rather than falter.
“It was a pack mentality all night I thought,” said O'Leary. “When things weren't going our way and we weren't agreeing with all the calls and things were getting a little bit crazy, I thought we did a great job of responding, not stepping too far past the line and doing things that would cost us. We did a great job of sticking together.”
Special teams could be considered the difference in the game as the Warriors were 1-for-2 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. Jiri Smejkal was key to the penalty kill unit all night with blocked shots and key kills.
“That's been something that we as a team have been working on all year long is our determination and the willingness to block shots,” said O'Leary. “It's really a time to dig down and play defence. When you can block shots, go hard for 30 seconds and come off, that helps with momentum and helps carry over to 5-on-5 play.”
The Warriors are right back in the thick of the playoff race, but will need to keep it going this weekend with two more games on the way. Moose Jaw will head into the always tough Credit Union Iplex to face the Swift Current Broncos on Friday night and then they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Mosaic Place on Saturday.
“We've just got to go in there, work hard, have a sense of urgency, compete for pucks and we'll be fine,” said Valentine.
Point Scores Hat Trick In 4-3 Win Over Ice
Warriors captain Brayden Point celebrates his hat trick goal in the third period against the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday. (Photo: Stephen Simon/MJ Warriors)
Brayden Point scored a hat trick Wednesday as the Moose Jaw Warriors fought off the Kootenay Ice 4-3 in an emotional game at Mosaic Place.
Kootenay controlled the game early, they were quick up the ice on the transition and were able to generate scoring opportunities on Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko.
As the first period continued the Warriors got better and were able to capitalize on their rushes.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the frame Jack Rodewald drove across the Kootenay left line. With Jesse Shynkaruk driving through the middle of the zone, Rodewald swung the puck to Captain Brayden Point inside the left circle. Point dangled through the defenseman then put a backhand past goalie Wyatt Hoflin for his 18th of the year.
Just over three minutes later Warriors defenseman Spenser Jensen stood up the ice at the Moose Jaw line then quickly chipped the puck up the ice for Axel Blomqvist. The 19-year-old import came down the left wall then went tape-to-tape to Point through the middle of the ice. Point once again charged the net and finished with another backhand that resulted with his second of the game.
Moose Jaw kept their attack going in the second period as they looked to add to their lead. At the nine minute mark Dallas Valentine forced the puck off the Kootenay sticks on the high Moose Jaw wall then flipped the puck to the neutral zone. Torrin White pounced on the loose puck and stormed up the ice and rifled a shot past the glove of Hoflin to make it 3-0.
In the back half of the second the visitors got on the board. At 11:44 Matt Alfaro hesitated on the Warriors right wall then set up Austin Vetterl going through the middle of the zone where he snapped a shot to the back of the net. With just over three minutes remaining Vetterl and Zak Zborosky worked hard on the fore-check, eventually setting up Rinat Valiev for a shot from the blueline in to traffic and beat Sawchenko to make it a tight game going in to the second intermission.
The third period was tight and emotional, hits on the Warriors Brayden Point and Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart sparked several after whistle scrums and brought on a number of penalties.
With nine minutes to go in the game and the Warriors on the man advantage, Point walked off the Kootenay left wall and to the high slot where he rifled a wrist shot for his hat trick goal to give the Warriors some breathing room.
A minute later Kootenay leaned on their superstar captain. Jon Martin moved the puck below the Warriors goal line for Tim Bozon, who quickly hit Reinhart on top of the crease where he shelved the puck to claw the Ice back to within one.
Kootenay outshot the Warriors 12-3 in the final period but weren’t able to find an equalizer as Moose Jaw held on for the thrilling one-goal win.
Zach Sawchenko finished the game with 30 saves, Dallas Valentine picked up two assists, Moose Jaw was 1-for-2 on the power play, and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
After having Thursday off, the Warriors return to action Friday when they venture west to Swift Current for a crucial East Division matchup, they’re back at home Saturday to take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Both games can be heard on Country 100 starting with the PreGame Show at 6:40pm.
Warriors Look to Melt Ice Tonight
Saturday's win over the Edmonton Oil Kings put the Moose Jaw Warriors back on the positive side of things and now they're hoping to keep that going with another tough test on the way.
The Warriors will welcome in the Kootenay Ice to Mosaic Place on Wednesday night for the third of four meetings between the two teams this season.
Moose Jaw will be focused on building off the win over Edmonton, which was just their second win since returning from the Christmas break.
“It was a good team win,” said 19-year-old defenceman Austin Adam. “We battled hard in the game, I thought we played a pretty well, all around game, so we've just got to learn off it and keep working hard.
“We need to move forward onto Kootenay, we need to work hard and execute our game plan and I think we'll be alright.”
The Warriors have struggled to a 2-6-1-0 record since coming back from the Christmas break, but now with the roster settled for the rest of the season, the team is hoping to start a drive towards the post-season.
“The guys are working hard, it's always tough after the Christmas break, but we're getting back into it and we've got a good road ahead of us here,” said Adam.
The playoffs remain in reach for the Warriors, but they need wins like the one on Saturday over Edmonton and one on Wednesday against Kootenay. The Ice currently sit five points ahead of the Warriors for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot.
The home team has taken both meetings so far this season between the Warriors and Ice with Moose Jaw winning 3-1 on Oct. 9 and the Ice skating to a 7-3 win over the Warriors on Nov. 23.
While the Warriors are coming off a win, Kootenay has struggled over the last week, dropping three straight, including a 6-4 loss to the Saskatoon Blades on home ice on Saturday.
The Ice will still be a test for the Warriors as they bring in a strong group of forwards, led by Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Reinhart, along with Tim Bozon and Jaedon Descheneau, are a tough group for any defensive group to have success slowing down.
Adam said Moose Jaw's defencemen will need to be on top of their games.
“You've just got to be aware when they're out on the ice,” said Adam. “They're skilled players of course, but if we're aware when they're out on the ice, then we can handle them.”
The Warriors and Ice square off at Mosaic Place at 7:00pm on Wednesday night. You can catch all the action live on Country 100, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 6:40pm.
This is the first of three games over the next four nights for the Warriors. They will also head to Swift Current on Friday and then host Lethbridge on Saturday.
Warriors Building Off Big Win
Warriors forward Jaimen Yakubowski has eight goals and 22 points in 43 games this season.
Saturday's win over Edmonton was big for the Moose Jaw Warriors, it changed the vibe around the team after a tough week and got the team back on track in the playoff race.
However, the Warriors know it was just one win and will mean nothing if they don't find a way to build off it going forward.
“We want to make the playoffs this year and we're going to do whatever we can to do that,” said forward Jaimen Yakubowski. “We've got to win these games and as an older guy, I've got to push these younger guys to try and get there as well. For us 20-year-olds, this is our last kick at the can, so we want to play some playoff games for sure.”
The Warriors entered Saturday's game against Edmonton on a down note. They had lost 6-2 to Everett on Friday night and the mood was tense with the trade deadline looming on Saturday.
Moose Jaw made a minor deal at the deadline and kept their core intact to push towards the playoffs.
The confidence shown by the front office in the players was returned as the team came out and played inspired against the defending Memorial Cup champion Oil Kings. They pushed the pace of play throughout, got timely goals and timely goaltending for 16-year-old Brody Willms.
It all resulted in hard fought win for the tribe.
“We played a team game, a full sixty minutes, everybody contributed and going forward into the second half of the season, that really helped us out as a group and we can just build from that,” said Yakubowski.
The win was a four-point game for the Warriors with Edmonton holding down one of the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Wednesday's game will be against another team holding down one of those spots with the Kootenay Ice in town.
The Warriors currently sit five points out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, held by the Ice, and need every point they can get going forward for the rest of the season as they look to climb into one of those spots.
Yakubowski called these two games “must wins” for the Warriors.
“(Kootenay is) a good team, they've been playing good hockey, but it's definitely a winnable game for us,” said Yakubowski. “If we play a full sixty minutes, like we did against Edmonton, we have a good chance to win and we need those points for sure.”
Sam Reinhart and the Ice make their final trip to Mosaic Place this season on Wednesday night and the Warriors will be ready.
Warriors' Weekend Ends on High Note
Warriors forward Axel Blomqvist uses his long reach to keep Edmonton defenceman Dysin Mayo at bay during Saturday's game at Mosaic Place. (Photo: Stephen Simon/MJ Warriors)
Last week was a rough one for the Moose Jaw Warriors, but they nailed the ending on Saturday night.
The Warriors skated past the defending Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings 4-3 at Mosaic Place to end a three-game losing skid and picked up a key win if they hope to get back into the playoff race.
“It's funny how short these kids memories are, we were just laughing in the dressing room that it's night and day between (Friday) night's feeling in the room and what it is right now, and it's fun to see,” said Mark O'Leary, assistant coach of the Warriors.
“The guys realized what it takes to win these big hockey games down the stretch here and it takes a lot of the hard work and desperation and that urgency to do the little things well.”
The Warriors were an unhappy bunch after Friday's 6-2 loss to the Everett Silvertips. It was a rough outing for the tribe as they struggled mightily in the second period and fell behind 4-1.
Everett seemed to want it more than the Warriors did, but that was the complete opposite on Saturday with Moose Jaw coming out strong right from the opening puck drop.
“The night before wasn't the effort that we wanted, but I thought the guys responded well, came out and played hard for a full sixty minutes and we got rewarded with the win,” said captain Brayden Point.
“We battled for the puck and I thought that we won a lot of our one-on-one battles. Even the ones that we didn't come out with the puck, we made it hard on their guys, so it was a tough game for them.”
The win sets the Warriors up nicely heading into a meeting with the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday night. Kootenay currently holds a five-point lead on the Warriors for the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Willms Gets First WHL Win
Saturday's win was big for the Warriors in another way as well, as Brody Willms notched his first WHL win in just his second career start.
“It was awesome, it was quite the feeling,” said Willms. “I've been wanting to get my first WHL win for a while, got a try at it in Kootenay and had it slip away, so I just couldn't be happier to get the win.
Willms made 28 saves for the Warriors in the 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings in his first career start at Mosaic Place.
The 16-year-old goalie was recalled by the Warriors for the rest of the season on Tuesday night after Moose Jaw traded 19-year-old goalie Justin Paulic to Victoria in the trade that brought over import forward Axel Blomqvist.
“I couldn't be happier, really excited to get this opportunity and looking forward to the rest of the year,” said Willms.
Willms had posted an 8-4-0 record in 12 games for the Okanagan Hockey Academy Midget Prep White this season. He held a 2.51 goals against average and a .904 save percentage with four shutouts.
He said the biggest adjustment so far has been the speed of the shots.
“They're just so much bigger and stronger that it really comes off a lot faster, so for myself, just trying to get use to the quicker shots here over the last couple of days,” said Willms. “I feel like I'm getting use to it more and more every day. Every time I'm on the ice, I feel a lot more confident.”
Blomqvist Gelling with Line Mates
Axel Blomqvist's first game in a Moose Jaw Warriors' uniform felt like a feeling out process on Friday, but the big import forward fit in very well on Saturday night.
Blomqvist scored the game-winning goal in the third period and added an assist in the Warriors' 4-3 win over Edmonton.
He seemed to be gelling much better with linemates Brayden Point and Jack Rodewald as the game progressed.
“First game is always going to be a little bit weird, but as the game went on (Saturday), we just got better and those are two really good players, I'm excited to play with those guys,” said Blomqvist after the win.
“I thought we played well,” added Point. “As the game went on we started to get more chemistry. Obviously when there's a new player on your team and on your line, there's going to be some adjusting and a bit of a learning curve, but I thought we're doing well.”
One area that Blomqvist really seemed to help was on the power play as he settled into the slot area to set up Brett Howden's power play goal in the second period.
Edmonton hadn't surrendered a power play goal in 44 chances when the Warriors scored in the second period.
“Even when they weren't scoring, they were getting some great looks and that's a step in the right direction,” said O'Leary. “Our power play has obviously had it's struggles all year long, but we've been looking for that right mix of somebody in the honey hole – we like to call it – and Axel had some good looks right from that little spot.”
The Warriors are back to work on Monday as they prepare to host Sam Reinhart and the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday to kick-off a three games in four nights stretch.
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