With their captain hospitalized earlier in the day, the Moose Jaw Warriors stayed alive Wednesday night.
Kendall McFaull had an emergency appendectomy before the game started, but the Warriors rallied with a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final to stave off elimination.
Game 5 will be played Friday night in Edmonton with the Oil Kings enjoying a 3-1 series lead.
“We’re a pretty resilient bunch. Not much fazes us,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “Kendall goes to the hospital at 4 o’clock in the morning and has his appendix out later in the day. A young kid goes in net. Couple of other changes are made and the guys just keep marching ahead. I’m very proud of them.”
Not only were the Warriors missing their captain, they also turned to affiliate goalie Justin Paulic and gave him his second career WHL start. The 16-year-old rookie — who hadn’t even dressed in the playoffs — stayed perfect in the WHL career as he made 28 saves.
“It was a tough decision to make. You’ve got a couple of guys who were disappointed,” said Stothers. “Part of coaching is making some tough decisions. You’re not going to make everybody happy. We have 27 guys. Everybody wants to play. A decision was made for the benefit of the whole team as a collective group. It worked out.”
Paulic was outstanding as he made 28 saves.
The Warriors earned their first lead of the series when Brayden Point finished a great pass from Morgan Rielly on their first power play of the game.
The Warriors doubled their lead with 5:13 left in the first period when Cody Beach waited for traffic to arrive at the net. Tanner Eberle went hard to the net and Cam Braes was wide open to bang the rebound home.
Beach made a great backhand pass in front to Kenton Miller who scored with 2.7 seconds left in the opening frame.
The Warriors went ahead 4-0 when Miller scored his second of the night before Tyler Maxwell finished off a nice pass from Stephane Legault to cut into the Warriors’ lead.
James Henry iced the game for the Warriors with an empty net goal with 2:25 left.
The Warriors record improved to 8-0 in the playoffs when they score three or more goals. They are now 50-2-3-2 for the season when scoring three or more goals.