For the past four seasons, the Moose Jaw Warriors have been putting the pieces in place for this season.
With the WHL Trade Deadline now in the rearview mirror, the Warriors have set their roster for the run towards the playoffs and they were able to add some key pieces — Brandon Schuldhaus and Kale Clague — without upsetting one of the strongest attributes of this year’s team, which is the chemistry.
“We have guys that have been here for 4-5 years together, so obviously that builds a lot of chemistry over time and you want to play for guys that you enjoy being around and are good teammates and we definitely have that here,” said Warriors goalie Brody Willms, who is in his fourth full season in Moose Jaw.
Willms, along with captain Brett Howden, Jayden Halbgewachs and Tanner Jeannot are all in their fourth season together with the Warriors, while Josh Brook and Tristin Langan are also in their third season with the group. The Warriors have built around that core group, tweaking it with the addition of Brayden Burke and Justin Almeida last season, and then Barrett Sheen, Tristyn DeRoose, Vince Loschiavo and Ryan Peckford up front throughout this season.
While other teams have done complete overhauls of their teams in the past few weeks, the Warriors were content to carry on with the group that got them into top spot in the Western Hockey League with 34 wins in 43 games this season.
“That’s where we’re special is that a lot of these guys grew up together and they went through those tough times together, so they have that fire burning in their belly that they want something different,” said Warriors assistant coach Mark O’Leary.
“We’ve talked about this year for many years and I can remember when Howdy came in as a 15-year-old, it was building around when he was going to be 19 and Halbgewachs was going to be 20… so to see the way they are on the ice and in the dressing room, you know it’s a special group and now they just have to go out and keep showing it.”
Schuldhaus has been around the team for only a week, but he said coming in that he could see the bond that the Warriors have and that there’s something special brewing in the Mosaic Place locker room.
“There’s a lot of good chemistry and it’s a really good group of guys and that’s why everything has been going so well, everyone is playing for each other and it’s good to see,” said Schuldhaus.
The Warriors won their seventh straight game after the deadline passed, beating the Calgary Hitmen, 8-3, at Mosaic Place on Wednesday night. Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oil Kings will mark the first time this season that the Warriors have their entire roster healthy heading in.
Halbgewachs doesn’t expect much to change in the locker room with the addition of Clague.
“That’s a huge trade for us, a big piece that’s going to help us out, he’s got a lot of experience, which is makes that trade pretty big,” said Halbgewachs. “We’ve got our roster set now, so we’ve just got to keep pushing to get better each day and keep building chemistry.
“We’ve been bonding together here and we’re a pretty close group in the room and that’s going to help on our ice. The couple new faces will come in and fit in really good.”
The Warriors have a three-in-three this weekend, they host Edmonton on Friday; head to Prince Albert on Saturday; and then battle Medicine Hat in a matinee at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The Pre-Game Show is on the air at 6:40 p.m. on Friday and Saturday on Country 100.