The Moose Jaw Warriors playoff aspirations were dealt a blow Friday in Medicine Hat.
The Warriors lost 4-1 in Medicine Hat to lose ground in the battle for a Western Hockey League playoff berth.
A win would have moved them to within six points of the Tigers in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Instead they are 10 points adrift and seven points behind the Kootenay Ice who also won Friday.
The Warriors will meet the Ice in Cranbrook, B.C. tonight to conclude their road trip.
“It wasn’t the game that we anticipated,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “We were a little tentative with our play and we weren’t really moving our feet. We weren’t the team trying to set any kind of pace. We were on our heels and we had a little bit of a slow start.
“They’re a fast team and we were in retreat mode early. It ended up hurting us.”
The Warriors have 17 games left — 11 of those at home — but have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to fight their way back into the thick of the playoff chase.
“We’ve got to be the team that’s possession the puck. We have to be in pursuit when we don’t have it,” said Stothers. “This just makes (Saturday’s) game even bigger.”
Friday’s loss came exactly a week after they ran away with an 8-4 win over the Tigers. The same thing happened a year ago when the Warriors looked like world beaters in a 6-0 home win over the Tigers before being shutout by the same score in the Gas City in their next game.
Miles Koules got the Tigers on the board 1:07 into the first period as the home side took the game to the Warriors.
“They were back at home, they know the situation. We beat them last time and they’re not going to forget that. They came out with a sense of urgency from the start,” said Stothers. “We didn’t match that urgency right from the opening face-off.”
Medicine Hat’s line of Boston Leier, Logan McVeigh and Curtis Valk scored on consecutive shifts to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Leier scored and defenceman Tyler Lewington scored just over three minutes apart.
Koules’ second came 1:06 into the third period.
Sam Fioretti’s 27th goal of the season came on the power play in the third period to thwart Cam Lanigan’s shutout bid. Lanigan finished with 37 saves.
Justin Paulic made 27 saves for the Warriors.