For the second time in three games, 16-year-old goalie Jackson Unger put together a massive performance to lead the Moose Jaw Warriors to a victory.
Unger turned away 35 shots, including 27 over the first two periods, in a 2-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings at Mosaic Place on Wednesday night.
“Goalies can make or break games and I thought that I bounced back really well after that goal and I shut the door after that and it gave the team confidence,” Unger said after the win.
Unger has now started three straight games for the Warriors, winning two of them, including a shutout win in Red Deer last Friday.
Warriors assistant coach Scott King said Unger allows the team to play with more confidence due to his demeanour in the net.
“There’s a lot of calm, coolness about his game that you like and it just a comforting feeling when he’s back there because you expect him to make the save and he usually does and he’s been fantastic so far,” King said.
Last week, Unger went from playing three straight games for Canada Red at the 2021 Capital City Challenge, turned around and joined the Warriors on its three-game Alberta road trip and drew back in against the Wheat Kings.
He said it’s been a lot of hockey, but a lot of fun.
“It was awesome and then coming back, we had some tough games, but we continue to move forward,” Unger said.
Brandon controlled the first half of the game and picked up an early goal from Ben Thornton just before the midway point of the first period.
The Wheat Kings continued to press early in the second, but Unger stood tall in the Warriors’ net, allowing the offence to eventually find its way.
That came with just over six minutes left in the second when Nathan Pilling started a rush to Robert Baco, who fed Matthew Gallant charging into the slot, he lifted it over Brandon goalie Ethan Kruger to tie the game.
King said that shift sparked the team.
“It’s good to see them get some success because [Pilling] in particular, work at his game and I liked his energy and his effort tonight,” he said. “[Gallant] jumping up there and creating that lane was a real nice play, so that definitely got us feeling a bit better about ourselves.”
Just 37 seconds later, Denton Mateychuk drove to down the wing and step up Brayden Yager in the slot for his 11th of the season, giving the Warriors a 2-1 lead after 40.
Moose Jaw found its stride in the third and outshot Brandon, 14-8, to hold onto the one-goal lead and take the victory.
The Wheat Kings outshot the Warriors, 36-26, overall in the game, while both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.
The Warriors will get Thursday off before returning to the ice for a home-and-home against the Swift Current Broncos this weekend, starting in Swift Current on Friday.
Moose Jaw will host the Broncos on Saturday night for the annual Teddy Bear and Toque Toss game at Mosaic Place. Tickets are available at mjwarriors.ca or the Mosaic Place Box Office.