On Friday night, the Moose Jaw Winmar AAA Warriors will kick off their 40th season within the Saskatchewan Male U18 AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL).
The Battleford Stars will be coming to town for a two-game series at the Moose Jaw Events Centre at 7:00 p.m., followed by another matchup on Saturday at 12:00 p.m.
Moose Jaw is looking to build on what was a very impressive 26-17-0-1 season a year ago that saw them get swept in the first round of the playoffs to the Regina Pat Canadians.
Coming into Friday night, head coach, Trevor Weisgerber says the team has a good mix of veterans and rookies that will serve well for the Warriors this season.
“We’re going to be a team that can score goals, but also in our own end, we have a d-man who can move pucks well and create offensively by jumping into the play. As long as our work ethic is there and our compete is there every shift and every night. We have a team that can score enough goals each night.”
The team has nine returning players such as Connor Miller, Moose Jaw’s Liam Fitzpatrick, Jake Briltz, Grady Hoffman, Ryder Knutson, Wyatt LaCoste, Max Threinen, Austin Woodley, and in net Ryan Bains.
As a rookie last season, Fitzpatrick put up 39 points (19G-20A), which was good enough to put him second in team scoring with hopes to improve his overall game coming into this season.
Miller who hails from Lipton, SK, has high hopes for the team to qualify for the prestigious Mac’s Tournament in Calgary over the Christmas break. Last season, Miller was fifth in team scoring with 37 points.
Rookies cracking the squad for this season are Bryce Boughen, Brennan Brown, Cooper Buhay, Dylan Duzan, Drew Fleger, Rhett Perrin, Johan Pinel, Caleb Potter, Owen Prohar, Kanyan Unger, and goaltender Ryan Hicks.
Following a 3-1 preseason showing that saw them beat the Swift Current Legionnaires twice, and take a split against the Regina Pat Canadians, Weisgerber liked what he saw from his team defensively.
“We talk a lot of our back pressure and making it tough on teams that we’re coming back to the house and making it tough off the rush for other teams because our forwards are coming back hard into the d-zone and that our defensemen are staying up and closing those gaps. I think we have a well-rounded team and looking forward to Friday night.”
Their opponent the Battleford Stars is looking for a bounce-back season as they squeaked into the playoffs with an 18-22-0-4 record and lost in the first round to the eventual league winners the Notre Dame Hounds.
They are without leading scorers from last year Zane Norand and Kobie Anderson who put up 39 and 37 points respectively for the team. Head-to-head last season, these two teams split their series with a 1-2-0-1 record.
Weisgerber says the team will not be taking the Stars lightly to start the season.
“In the past, Battleford works extremely hard. With their coaching staff up there, they do a great job just with their work ethic and how they compete and I know last year we had a hard time with them. I know they will be very similar this year with some of the guys they have up there. We have to make sure we’re out working them every shift and that we’re also pushing the pace.”
Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. on Friday. Tickets can be bought at Sasktix.ca, as well as the Moose Jaw Events Centre box office. The Warriors are also selling season tickets for $165, which also can be bought at Sasktix.ca.
For those that can’t make the games, each home game will be live-streamed on IKS Live beginning 15 minutes before game time.