It may be the first week of November, but the Moose Jaw Warriors picked up two points that may prove pretty valuable come the end of the season.
The Warriors beat the Kootenay Ice 5-1 Saturday night to stay two points ahead of the Ice for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While it is very early to be talking post-season, if the Warriors want to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year, picking up as many points as possible from the teams behind them in the standings is going to be vital.
Friday, Moose Jaw (7-5-3-0) opened the weekend with a 5-2 loss to the Saskatoon Blades.
The Warriors put together a strong 60-minute effort against a road-weary Kootenay club that was playing its fourth game in five nights.
Moose Jaw failed to beat Ice goalie Duncan McGovern despite putting together a strong opening frame.
In the second they finally broke through and scored four goals.
Yegor Buyalski opened the scoring after a defensive zone breakdown by Kootenay two minutes into the second.
Former Ice forward, Keenan Taphorn marked his first game against his former team by deflecting a Josh Brook pass from a near impossible angle at the side of the net.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) November 4, 2018
The Warriors looked like they had taken control of the game until Peyton Krebs was able to spring Brad Ginnell on a two-on-one and he fed Jaeger White for his 10th of the season.
Seconds later the Ice had a great chance to tie the game when Krebs and Ginnell had another two-on-one, but Ginnell shot high.
Tristan Langan was allowed to walk out front to score his 12th goal of the season to restore the Warriors’ two-goal lead. Just before the end of the period, Taphorn re-directed another Brook point shot — this time on the power play — to give the Warriors a 4-1 lead.
Dalton Hamaliuk scored his first goal for the Warriors on the power play in the third period.
Taphorn now has four goals and an assist in five games with Moose Jaw since the trade.
The Warriors out-shot the Ice 35-11 over the final 40 minutes as McGovern worked hard to keep his team in the game.
Brodan Salmond made 17 saves in the win.
Friday, the Warriors managed to stay in the game against the Blades, but weren’t able to mound a comeback.
Jackson Caller opened the scoring for the Blades before Taphorn scored to start his big weekend and tie the score before the end of the first.
Saskatoon’s Kirby Dach got a little puck luck as Salmond fought off his shot, but saw it go off of Hamaliuk and into his own net to give the Blades a 2-1 lead.
Max Gerlach extended the Blades lead when his power-play shot went through a Riley McKay screen.
Early in the third, Langan forced a turnover and scored on a short-handed breakaway to cut the Blades lead to 3-2.
Dach didn’t need any luck to restore the Blades’ two-goal lead with 2:59 left. He showed incredible patience in cutting to the net and drawing a Warriors defenceman and Salmond down before sliding the puck to Gerlach who had the whole net to bury into from a foot out.
Josh Paterson scored into a empty net to put the game away for Saskatoon.
Dorrin Luding made 24 saves to earn the win for the Blades.
Kaedan Taphorn was unable to face his former team as the other former Ice player missed his third game with an upper-body injury. Kale Clouston has missed seven straight games and Brenden Kwiatkowski has missed 13 straight games.
Warriors defenceman Daemon Hunt is on duty with Hockey Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Warriors assistant coach Mark O’Leary is also at the U17s.