By Les Lazaruk
Not even a quick turn-around could put the brakes to the speed and pressure the Moose Jaw Warriors like to apply.
Despite starting a game less than 17 hours after finishing off an emotional 3-2, home-ice triumph over the arch-rival Regina Pats Saturday, the Tribe were able to summon the energy to record a 4-2 victory over the Blades in Saskatoon Sunday.
The difference-maker was overage forward Brayden Burke. He scored the only two goals of the second period, turning into a 1-1 tie after one frame into a 3-1 Moose Jaw lead through 40 minutes. The WHL’s second leading point getter added an assist to improve his total to 109…trailing only Swift Current captain Glenn Gawdin in the chase for the Bob Clarke Trophy.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to give (the Warriors) a lot of credit,” explained Blades assistant coach Ryan Keller as to why the second period went as it did. “They are the benchmark in the league. All their players over there have a high hockey I.Q. Their big guys can skate, their little guys compete along with a lot of skill. You can, maybe, put it to not having the level of intensity that was needed or those (type of) things and sometimes you’re a step behind because of that. And, sometimes you’re a step behind because you’re chasing the play the whole night.”
Ryan Peckford opened the scoring for the Tribe while Jayden Halbgewachs potted his league-leading 59th goal of the season into an empty net as Moose Jaw, who never trailed in the contest, improved their record to 46-12-3…good enough for the lead in the East Division, the Eastern Conference and the entire WHL.
Braylon Shmyr and Josh Paterson replied for the Bridge City Bunch…now 31-29-3 for the season, still clinging to sole possession of fifth place in the East Division and the second and final wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Warriors out-shot the Blue and Gold 36-35 with rookie goaltenders Adam Evanoff of Moose Jaw and Nolan Maier of the Blades making several big saves to keep the score from getting into the range of Friday’s 7-5 Regina victory over Saskatoon.
The Bridge City Bunch are off until Friday when they host Lethbridge. By then, the three teams battling for the two wild-card playoff spots will all have nine games remaining to play in the regular-season…the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Prince Albert Raiders and the Blue and Gold!
Pacman Points – The victory clinched the six-game series for the Warriors against the Blades…4-1 with one game remaining Saturday in Moose Jaw.
Burke’s three-point game gives him six goals and eight assists for 14 points in five games against Saskatoon this season.
Paterson’s goal was the 100th point of his WHL career. Fifty-six of those points are goals in 196 career WHL games for the 18-year-old Edmonton product.
Shmyr’s goal gives him 79 points for the season…the most by a Bridge City Bunch player since 2012-13 when, both, Josh Nicholls and Matej Stransky posted 85 points each. The previous season-high for points in a season by a Blade since hosting the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup was 78 by Nikita Scherbak in 2013-14.
Neither team scored on the power play…Saskatoon with four chances and Moose Jaw with three.
The Bridge City Bunch were without defenceman Dawson Davidson for a third straight game because of an Upper Body injury while forwards Brandon Machado and Alec Zawatsky were healthy scratches. So, too, was 15-year-old defenceman Aidan de la Gorgendiere. The fifth overall pick in the 2017 Bantam Draft has joined the Blue and Gold as an affiliate player for a few days from the Yale Hockey Academy.
Warriors’ defenceman Jett Woo sat out the third and final game of a league-imposed suspension for a check to the head major on February 19 against Brandon. Former Wheat Kings blueliner Kale Clague was sidelined by a Lower Body injury after blocking a shot Saturday against Regina. Because of those two scratches, Moose Jaw called up the 15th overall pick in the 2017 Bantam Draft, rearguard Daemon Hunt, from the Brandon Midget AAA squad. Otherwise, forwards Brecon Wood and Tristyn DeRoose were “coaches decisions.”
The Blades won 28 of 49 faceoffs, led by Logan Christensen who captured possession on all but one of 11 draws. Justin Almeida won six of 11 trips to the dot to be the Warriors’ top man in the circle.
Shmyr’s seven shots on goal were the most by any individual player from both teams in the game while Tanner Jeannot and Tristin Langen had five shots on goal each to pace Moose Jaw.