Keith Hershmiller

Bilous spectacular as Warriors snap skid vs. Blades

REGINA – Call it slaying the dragon, call it a slump-buster of epic proportions, call it what you want: it was exactly what the Warriors needed.

Boston Bilous made 29 saves for the fourth shutout of his career, and the Moose Jaw Warriors (5-6-1) upended the Saskatoon Blades (9-1-1) 4-0 Friday night.

“I think from the start of the game (Boston) send the message that he was here and ready to play,” said Moose Jaw head coach Mark O’Leary post-game.

“He made a couple big saves early, that calms the nerves on the bench, so when you see that confidence in the net it seems to roll through the team. I think the guys really rallied around him tonight.”

Saskatoon was the No. 1 team in the Western Hockey League entering the contest and had not lost in regulation since March 4, 2020 at home to the Calgary Hitmen last season, a total span of 13 games. They had also not been shut out since the game before that, Feb. 29 in Prince Albert.

The Warriors had not beaten the Blades since Oct. 27, 2019, a six-game streak, but the most important point yet: Moose Jaw had snapped its own six-game slide in the Hub.

“(To say it feels good) is definitely an understatement,” O’Leary said.

“I think we were certainly due for a win, but the most exciting thing as a coach is how we won. We saw tonight, that is the brand of hockey we see the Moose Jaw Warriors playing, and we played to our D.N.A. from start to finish, and we had four lines doing it. The players deserve this one.”

A cagey opening held few good chances either way, though Bilous pulled out a great stop on Caiden Daley at the mid-way point of the first period when the Moose Jaw goaltender starred down the veteran Saskatoon forward alone in the middle of the slot.

The Warriors’ attention to detail in the opening stanza paid off at the 16:31-mark, when a brilliant Eric Alarie feed below the hash marks, found a pinching Cole Jordan back door, and Moose Jaw had a deserved 1-0 lead.

It was Jordan’s second goal in his 11th game of the season, and it doubled his overall total from his full rookie season a year ago.

Bilous looked sharp throughout the first and added an excellent shoulder save on Kyle Crnkovic steaming in with acres of space to the 19-year-old net minder’s right late on.

The second period territorially dominated by the WHL-leading Blades, in which the Warriors did not record a shot on goal until the 12:29-mark, but the fact served only to further highlight Bilous’ brilliance.

The Blades had outshot the Warriors 11-1 in the middle stanza, and 20-9 through 40 minutes, but after the dust settled, Moose Jaw was still clinging to the one-goal advantage.

Still, it had been a much-improved fundamental effort from O’Leary’s young squad, and they were rewarded for a strong start to the third when a long Denton Mateychuk wrist shot from the right point evaded Nolan Maier a minute in; and just like that, the Warriors’ lead was doubled.

The Moose Jaw Warriors celebrate a goal vs. the Saskatoon Blades Apr. 2, 2021 (Keith Hershmiller)

“I think we did a much better job controlling the middle of the ice,” O’Leary said.

“The discipline to be smart, and our defencemen having good reads about when to go, or when to play defence (was key). Credit to our guys, they bought in, they were challenged pretty hard from yesterday, they picked themselves, dusted themselves off, and they had a good night.”

Bilous’ dominance continued when he stoned Tristen Robins in tight moments later, and Riley Krane gave his goaltender a little more support as he deftly deflected home a Cory King point shot at 12:09.

The shutout came on the heels of three out of four outings in which Bilous was pulled after poor starts.

“I think to Boston’s credit the scheduling and the situation in here can be hard on goaltenders,” O’Leary said.

“I think what he really needed was a good week of practice where he could work on some things. We have Matt Weninger our goaltender coach who does things virtually with him, but I think it was just a good opportunity for him to take a step back, and get back to his game. When you don’t have a training camp, things moved pretty quick there, and for a goaltender, you can just get lost going game to game. He had a great week, he’s a hard-working kid, so I think you saw the product of that tonight.”

Lucas Brenton added an empty netter for his first career WHL goal and point.

The Warriors have the weekend off and are next in action Monday afternoon for the third ‘Trans-Canada Clash’ of the season vs. the Regina Pats. It is expected to be the final Moose Jaw-Regina match-up of the year for the Pats’ Connor Bedard, the WHL’s leading scorer, who is soon to depart to join up with Team Canada ahead of the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Texas.

DUBNetwork Forums Bilous spectacular as Warriors snap skid vs. Blades

Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.