REGINA – Hockey can be such a cruel mistress.
The Moose Jaw Warriors (7-10-1) played one of their most complete games of the Hub, but were beaten 2-0 by Max Paddock and the Prince Albert Raiders (7-8-3) Thursday.
Paddock was spectacular and made 45 stops to become the first goaltender to shut the Warriors out completely through 18 contests at the Subway WHL Hub.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 16, 2021
In keeping with his even-keel personality, Moose Jaw head coach Mark O’Leary felt little discouragement post-game.
“I am proud of the guys” he said over zoom afterward.
“Sometimes you try as hard as you can, you do a lot of things really well, and it doesn’t work out: that’s a good lesson in life and in sport. The hardest thing to do sometimes is stick with something when you’re not getting the result you want, but I thought we played a great game and at the end of the day if you put yourself positions (like we did tonight) a lot of nights you come away with a real big win. It just wasn’t our night tonight.”
A very bright start for the Warriors led to numerous Grade A chances and a 10-1 shots-on-goal advantage through eight minutes, but the veteran Paddock looked razor-sharp from the jump.
Moose Jaw was unable to cash in from its dominance, and the ensuing Prince Albert pushback was rewarded with just over two minutes remaining in the opening period; Raiders forward Michael Horon blew wide past Daemon Hunt, and slipped the puck through Boston Bilous’ legs to give his club the lead against the run of play.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 16, 2021
To make matters worse, with only seconds remaining in the first frame, Warriors’ leading assist man Ryder Korczak looked to be in tremendous pain on the bench after an uncalled hit from behind flung him headfirst into the boards. The draft-eligible Korczak, who led the team in scoring in 2019-2020, had already missed six games in the Hub with what the team called an ‘upper-body injury’.
Then, a minute into the second, Moose Jaw’s Captain Hunt had a puck roll up a stick and hit him flush in the face. He was forced to the Warriors locker room, and the amount of blood on the ice led to a lengthy delay.
Both would return.
Numerous further chances, both five-on-five and during two well-worked Warriors’ power plays in the first portion of the middle frame only led to more heroics from Paddock, whose magnificence made one wonder if he could be beaten on the night.
“(Paddock) was the difference start to finish,” O’Leary said.
“You look at the way we started the game, we wanted to establish our identity in the first five minutes and I thought we did that. We had a lot of opportunities, real good looks, and he weathered the storm, and he did that all night. At the end of the day he was the difference-maker for sure.”
Bilous wanted one back at the 16:37-mark when an innocuous-looking wrister from the goal-line to his right snuck short side on the 20-year-old goaltender; and despite a 35-20 shot advantage, and a similarly large edge in the scoring-chance department, Moose Jaw found itself down two after 40 minutes.
— Prince Albert Raiders (@PARaidersHockey) April 16, 2021
The Warriors hit two posts in the third, including one off a rocket from the left dot from Brayden Yager that beat Paddock clean eight minutes in, and the bounces just would not come for O’Leary’s men.
Moose Jaw went 0-for-4 with the man advantage on the night, snapping a four-game streak in which the Warriors scored at least one power-play goal.
The loss was also the Warriors third in a row with six contests remaining in the campaign, and the result moved the Prince Albert Raiders two points ahead of Moose Jaw for fourth place in the East Division.
“To be honest we have not talked about results (in the standings) at all with the group,” O’Leary said.
“If anything, we have re-emphasized that we’re all about standards over where we want to finish. I just think that for the personal development of our players and our team, it’s all about the eye test: if we’re winning our races and battles, if we’re paying attention to the details and we’re playing as a five-man unit, then that’s what we want and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Warriors are back at it Saturday afternoon for a clash with the second-placed Brandon Wheat Kings; puck drops at the Hub at 4:00 Saskatchewan Time.