Saturday the Moose Jaw Warriors were eliminated from playoff contention with a humbling 7-2 home loss to the Regina Pats.
Sunday they were understaffed and playing the third game in three nights against a Saskatoon Blades team that was riding a franchise record 18-game winning streak.
The Blades scored three times in the first 8:13 of the game and took a 4-0 lead into the third period.
What happened next may be the highlight of the Warriors season: they scored four third period goals before Tanner Eberle scored 45 seconds into overtime to stun the Memorial Cup hosts.
“I wanted the guys to have this feeling that they have now. The feeling of beating the school yard bully, the favoured,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “We’re the underdog and this is something I think will help us finishing this season and heading into next season.
“It’s a feeling that you can’t describe. And we needed it. We’re a young team. They’re never experienced it at this level. The younger guys needed this.”
The message in the Warriors locker room after the second period was just to get the first goal and take it from there.
Justin Kirsch scored a power play goal to do just that. Jordan Messier scored shortly thereafter when Brayden Point’s toe-drag deke turned a two-on-one into a a two-on-oh before he set up Messier.
The Warriors went back on the power play when Lukas Sutter punched Morgan Rielly in the back of his head, knocking his helmet off. Point banged in a rebound on the power play and suddenly the 1,200-or-so fans that braved the blizzard were making as much noise as a full house.
Point tied the game on a great shot off the rush as the Warriors scored four goals in 8:07.
The overtime winner was truly bizarre as Point chipped a puck to spring Rielly. Blades goalie Andrey Makarov liked his odds of beating Rielly to the loose puck, but Rielly got there first and avoided a sprawling Makarov at the boards feet from the Blades blueline. Rielly showed great composure in pulling up and drawing the Blades defenceman over before feeding Tanner Eberle for the easiest overtime winner of his life.
“I turned the corner and I thought he might leave his net. I saw him charging out and I thought if I can get by him I’ll either score or there would be a trailer coming late,” said Rielly. “It probably seemed like I was composed, but really I was losing it. I knew that Ebs was going to the net hard. I was happy he was the guy who got the goal. He’s a great team guy.”
The Blades’ confidence was sky-high on the streak and Blades head coach/GM Lorne Molleken wasn’t happy with how his team played after they went ahead 4-0.
“We got off to a quick start again. We got some goals by getting to the net, but I thought once we scored that fourth goal we lost our focus. We were more interested in chirping at the bench and taking bad penalties.,” said Molleken who won his 600th career WHL game Friday. “That’s where the maturity and experience of our group should come through. You should be humble about the things you do and certainly that came back and bit us.
“Give the Warriors a lot of credit. They played extremely hard here tonight. They deserved to win the game.”
Matej Stransky scored on the game’s first shift for the Blades. He scored twice in the first period, while Duncan Siemens also scored. Michael Ferland netted the only goal of the second period.
Justin Paulic made 36 saves for the Warriors and robbed Stransky with a glove save and made a great stick save late in the third period.