East Division recap

The Moose Jaw Warriors (29-12-6-1) managed to complete a rare feat for the franchise last week: they came home from the west coast with a winning record.

Only five times in the previous 20 seasons had the Warriors been above .500 in their trips to the B.C. or U.S. Division.

This season the Warriors finished 3-2 against the B.C. Division and 4-2 on the trip overall.

Traditionally in seasons past, the Warriors headed west immediately after the Christmas break which meant they were missing players who were at the world juniors or the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Road Warriors

It is the third time in the last seven seasons that the Warriors have had a winning record on the longest road trip of the season. Their best trip came in 1998-99 when they won seven straight games on the road with the western swing coming in the middle.

Zach Sawchenko shined in goal in the final two games of the trip. He made 34 saves as the Warriors handed the Prince George Cougars a rare home loss. The Warriors goalie followed that performance up with a 32-save effort in a 2-0 win in Edmonton where he was outstanding.

The Warriors strong road trip came despite being without standout Noah Gregor. The 18-year-old has missed three weeks and is expected to miss 3-4 more after he undergoes a minor surgery on his knee.


Blades win fifth straight

Elsewhere in the East Division, the Saskatoon Blades (20-22-5-1) have won five straight games and have moved four points clear of Calgary for the final wild card spot, though the Hitmen have two games in hand.

The Blades beat Swift Current 3-2 in a shootout and downed Swift Current 6-3 as they finished with a 5-1 record during their home stand. The lone blemish came against Tri-City.

Incredibly the Blades are doing all of this without Mason McCarty, Cameron Hebig and Markson Bechtold. The trio of forwards are all week-to-week. Hebig still hasn’t played this season, while Bechtold has been out for month and McCarty has been out for two months.

Pats welcome Hollett back

The Regina Pats (31-6-6-1) inexperience in goal finally caught up with them as they fell 8-5 in Medicine Hat. Max Paddock made 26 saves in a game where both of the Pats regular goaltenders didn’t dress.

The next night Jordan Hollett played his first game in nearly nine weeks and did enough to earn the Pats a 6-5 win in Swift Current.

Paddock made 29 saves in a 5-2 win over Brandon as the Pats have now two straight games after losing three out of their previous five contests — which constitutes a slump when you are as dominant as the Pats have been this season.

Paddock has been reassigned to his midget AAA team in Brandon.

Sam Steel has nine goals and 21 points in his last nine games.

Steenbergen is red hot

While no one is keeping pace with Steel, Tyler Steenbergen from the Swift Current Broncos (25-16-3-5) is coming close. Steenbergen had netted nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 12 games in January.

The Broncos dropped a pair of games within the division this past week and are 1-4-0-1 since the trade deadline that saw them swap goalies with Brandon and bring in 20-year-old Jordan Papirny.

Swift Current did welcome back Ryan Graham after he missed four games with an injury.

Wheat Kings holding steady

Brandon Wheat Kings (23-18-4-1) picked up three points as they played three games in three nights.

They lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Blades, but beat Medicine Hat 5-2 at home before losing 5-2 to the Pats.

Logan Thompson started all three games in goal for the Wheat Kings and made 41 saves in their win against the Tigers and 42 saves the next night in a losing effort in Regina.


Raiders win three straight on the road

It was a banner week for the Prince Albert Raiders (11-34-3-2). The Raiders went into Alberta and came home with three straight wins, defeating Red Deer 3-2, Edmonton 5-2 and Calgary 3-2 in overtime.

It was the Raiders first three-game winning streak of the season. They won at least three games in a row seven different times a year ago.

Defenceman Brayden Pachal from Estevan, Sask. had one career WHL goal in his first 80 games. He netted the game-winning goal twice in three days for the Raiders including the OT-winner in the Saddledome.

The Raiders welcomed back captain Tim Vanstone after he missed four games, but have lost newly acquired forward Jordy Stallard indefinitely and Simon Stansky is day-to-day and has missed six straight games.



Matthew Gourlie

Matthew Gourlie is a freelance journalist who has covered the Western Hockey League for the past 15 years, most recently as the sport editor of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald.