Though he won the Moose Jaw Warriors starting goaltender job by abstention, Justin Paulic has fit the bill for the past three weeks.
With Daniel Wapple out of the Warriors lineup for the foreseeable future, Paulic has taken over as the Warriors No. 1 goalie between the pipes. While it’s not an ideal situation, Paulic has made the most of it and the Warriors have found some life as a result.
The Tribe are 4-3-0-1 in Paulic’s eight starts since Wapple was injured and will look to built on that Friday in Medicine Hat and Saturday in Kootenay.
“Paulie has taken the challenge and has played extremely well for us,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “You never like to see any of your players hurt. It’s one thing to have a player step up and play well, you’re happy for them — and we are for Paulie — but at the same time we feel for Wapps. This is development time and there’s plenty of ice to go around.”
The two 17-year-old rookie goalies had been splitting the starts until Wapple was injured.
Zach Sawchenko, the Warriors top pick in the most recent WHL draft, has been backing up Paulic. The 15-year-old has been spending most of his time with his midget AAA Notre Dame Argos in Wilcox and has logged a lot of kilometres pulling double duty.
Wapple hasn’t been on the ice since he was injured in practice when he collided with a teammate in a drill. He is listed as having an upper body injury and there’s still no time table for his return.
Given that the Warriors don’t know when Wapple will be able to start practicing again — never mind take the step to playing in games — the Warriors are prepared to let Paulic shoulder the load.
“(Sawchenko) could be around for awhile,” said Stothers. “It would be nice to get (him) a game just to reward him for coming back and forth.”
Paulic has arguably been playing his best hockey of the season in the last three weeks.
In eight straight starts, Paulic has a .918 save percentage and a 3.44 goals-against-averge — the latter number skewed by the Warriors 7-0 loss to Edmonton. Paulic had a .895 save percentage before his recent run.
“I’ve been enjoying it,” said Paulic. “It’s unfortunate that Daniel is injured, obviously. It’s a lot different than playing every second game.”