REGINA – It might be true that the Moose Jaw brass was all-in on development over results this year, but this is not what they had in mind as far as results are concerned.
The Warriors (8-13-2) penalty kill struggled again, and Cole Nagy notched the winner at 11:29 of the third period as the Swift Current Broncos (6-16-1) emerged with a 4-2 victory Sunday.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 26, 2021
It was Moose Jaw’s seventh defeat in its last eight games
“We’re absolutely disappointed (by this last stretch),” said Moose Jaw head coach Mark O’Leary post-game.
“I think if you’re playing hockey, coaching hockey, you want to win and you’re competitive. If you’re losing more than you win, it’s not fun. It wasn’t fun last year (when the team ended the year 30 games under .500), and it’s not fun now.”
“It’s disappointing,” he continued.
“The losses, yes, but we expected more from some players, and they’ve had lots of opportunities and have not performed to the level they are capable of. I think age-wise, our young players have shown they are a big part of our offence, and I’ll never get upset about their consistency because they’re still learning; but that’s where you need leadership, and you need your older guys because that’s where the consistency is going to come from. Effort and compete level have to be there every night as an older guy, and we did not have enough guys ready to go.”
The Swift Current Broncos came out the better and were rewarded when on a power play, Raphael Pelletier jammed home a rebound off a Caleb Wyrostok shot at 15:30 of the opening frame.
It was the eighth game in their last 10 that the Warriors had given up a power-play goal against, and by average, only the Broncos themselves had a worse penalty kill than Moose Jaw heading into the contest.
“I think for half the game we just stood around and watched,” O’Leary said.
“We were late to the game tonight, and we showed a little bit of push back later, but you don’t usually deserve to win a game when you just watch the first half.”
A better start to the second period for the Warriors led to a goal from the team’s best line over the last couple of weeks: the 20-year-old Riley Krane with the 16-year-olds Jagger Firkus and Brayden Yager.
Firkus held off two Broncos just inside the Swift Current zone, and then fed Krane whose long wrister got a piece of Isaac Poulter’s glove and dropped in the net at 1:17.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 25, 2021
The lead did not last night long though, as a quick shot released mid-turn by big Broncos’ forward Cole Nagy at the 6:19-mark of the second period beat Moose Jaw goaltender Brett Mirwald, who only saw it at the last minute.
The Yager-Krane-Firkus line was in the middle of the Warriors’ tying goal only moments later. Firkus won a puck battle on the left wall, then passed it to Lucas Brenton, who found defenceman Cole Jordan at the right half-wall, and his wrister through the screen of Krane beat Poulter.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) April 25, 2021
Then it got chippy.
Second-year Swift Current defenceman Sam McGinley appeared to be the focus of Moose Jaw’s ire as he was challenged to and accepted fights from Calder Anderson and Bryden Kiesman within ten minutes in the second half of the period.
The Warriors could not get the job done on the penalty kill once again at the 11:29-mark of the third as Nagy pulled a nifty move in tight on Mirwald off a neat feed from Mathew Ward, and Swift Current had the lead again.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 26, 2021
It was the third game in a row, and sixth in the Hub, in which Moose Jaw had given up more than one power-play goal against.
When the buzzer sounded, the Warriors had the Regina Hub’s second-worst penalty kill at 70.7%.
Moose Jaw had all sorts of good looks on a late power play, and then with the goaltender pulled, but Poulter stood strong, and Moose Jaw could not find the equalizer.
Nagy grabbed his hat trick with an empty netter.
The contest was an excellent bounce-back effort from Mirwald, who stared down numerous good Broncos’ opportunities throughout the game while beating off 30 of 32 shots.
“I thought (Mirwald) competed tonight,” O’Leary said.
“I have no problem with the goaltending tonight and Brett is another young guy that I could never question his work or his compete.”
Swift Current’s win meant the clubs split the season series at two wins apiece.
The Warriors will get one more chance to end the year on a high note as they close out the campaign Monday evening vs. the Saskatoon Blades; puck drops at 8:00 p.m.
It’s one more chance for this team to make a statement.
“I hope it’s that they have pride,” O’Leary said.
“I hope it’s that they want to go out and give a lasting image of what their game looks like right now. It was a long time ago that we started the year 3-0, and nobody remembers that but if we can finish with a strong win, and a strong performance, then that’s the last image in our heads of where our players’ developments are at. At the end of the day, there will be some competition for spots next year, we know that, and this game will be the lasting image of where our players are. To me, that should be exciting, and if you’re competitive at all, there should be a little jump to your step tomorrow morning.”