By Matthew Gourlie
On the goal where Jayden Halbgewachs moved into the Western Hockey League’s scoring lead, he passed up a chance at his 69th goal of the season.
Breaking in on a two-on-one with the net empty Sunday afternoon, Tanner Jeannot was looking for Halbgewachs to help him get closer to the Warriors’ single season goal record of 70. Halbgewachs pointed at the net and told Jeannot to finish the chance.
Jeannot’s 37th of the season was his first in nine games and iced the Warriors’ 5-3 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings. Jeannot hit the post with the net empty Saturday and hadn’t been able to buy a break in recent weeks.
“Obviously he wants to help me get those goals, but for him — he needed that tonight,” Halbgewachs said. “He’s been a little down on himself because he hasn’t been able to find the net. To score tonight is a confidence-booster for him. And we need him. For him to get that goal and get rolling again is pretty key. He’s been playing a good game, but just can’t find a bounce. (Brett) Howden gave him that puck and that’s his goal. He’s got to take that.
“Breaking that record is obviously something I’m shooting for, but that’s just not the right time to contribute to that.”
With the win, the Warriors are now a point away from clinching first place in the East Division and their first WHL regular season title.
Both teams were playing their third games in three days and neither team were at their sharpest.
“It is a three-in-three and (Saturday) was obviously a rough game, a fast-paced game and a big game for us. You look at that game compared to today, but this was still a key game for us to get two points and maybe we came out a little light and went through the motions a bit. We waited until the third, but we ended up finding a way to get the two points,” Halbgewachs said.
“It’s huge for us to be able find ways to win games, but we need to find ways to play a complete game going into the playoffs.”
Jeannot wasn’t the only Warrior to break out of a goal-scoring slump.
The Warriors grabbed a 2-0 lead as Vince Loschiavo scored on consecutive shifts in the first period. Loschiavo only had one goal in his previous 11 games, but now has 19 on the season.
“Me and (Ryan) Peckford have been in a bit of a slump lately, but it’s nice for both of us to succeed offensively tonight,” Loschiavo said. “Whenever I can, I want to chip in offensively. It was nice to play with (Justin Almeida and Tristin Langan) tonight and help the team win.”
Brandon came back to tie the game early in the third period through goals by Gunnar Wegleitner and Rylan Bettens. Halbgewachs scored his 68th of the season 16 seconds later to restore the Warriors lead.
Brandon’s Caiden Daley tied the game again, but less than two minutes later Halbgewachs set up Peckford who scored the winning goal on a nice back-hand deke. It was Peckford’s first goal in seven games.
“It was nice to see a lot of guys stepping up and scoring,” Loschiavo said. “When guys step up in the third period and score big goals, it’s huge for our team.”
The Wheat Kings saw their three-game winning streak snapped. Dylan Myskiw made 20 saves in goal.
“I think we’re playing our game here towards the end of the season. We’re starting to play as a team and win games. It’s good to have that going into the playoffs,” said Wheat Kings winger Luka Burzan who was part of the blockbuster trade that brought Kale Clague to Moose Jaw from Brandon. “I’m getting a lot of opportunities and getting a bigger role and playing in different situations. It’s been a good move for me.”
Halbgewachs’ three points gives him 125 on the season and moved him a point ahead of Swift Current’s Glenn Gawdin who is sidelined with an injury. His goal leaves him tied with Theoren Fleury for the second-most by a Warrior in a season and two back of Blair Atcheynum’s team record of 70 goals.
The Warriors lost defencemen Dmitri Zaitsev and Brandon Schuldhaus Saturday night and both were out of the line-up Sunday. Matthew Benson slotted in and Matt Sanders was called up from the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes for his third WHL game of the season.
The Warriors were also without Brayden Burke who missed his fourth straight game and Barrett Sheen who served the first game of an undetermined suspension following his charging major on Saturday night.