The Moose Jaw Warriors were looking tie their season series with the Regina Pats with a win Tuesday night.
In order to come out with a better goal-differential on the season, the Warriors needed to out-score Pats by 11 goals. That was a lot to ask, but it wasn’t like the Warriors didn’t try.
The Warriors scored five times in the first two periods and cruised to a 5-0 win over the Pats to even up the season series. Justin Paulic made 31 saves to record his first career WHL shutout.
“The team was great. They came hard right off the bat. I think that really helped to push through the rest of the game. We hemmed them in and wore them down I think,” said Paulic who was making 24th consecutive start. “It’s hard not to get tired, but I’m enjoying it.”
In four seasons with the Warriors, captain Kendall McFaull had won the season series with the Pats decisively twice and finished tied last year. He didn’t want to lose the season series in his final year — to say nothing of his final game against their rivals.
“It’s definitely good to go out on top against them,” said McFaull. “With the season series on the line it was important for both teams.”
Even as the game got out of hand there were no fights and little of the edge that has been a hallmark of the rivalry. That being said, McFaull knows that even if the two teams aren’t at each other’s throats, games against Regina mean a lot to the fans and the city.
“It’s huge because of the way the fans see the games,” said McFaull. “We’ll have a great game against someone else and beat them and then you go out in the street and the fans are talking about the next time you play Regina. There’s that fire between the two cities.
“I know when we go to the Uptown Cafe tomorrow they’ll be praising us for beating Regina because they were pretty mad the last time we lost to them.”
McFaull and Bryson Gore scored 35 seconds apart late in the first period to get the Warriors rolling.
Ben Duperreault scored his first WHL goal in his third game after some good work behind the net by Miles Warkentine.
“It felt great to get the first goal. It was a great pass from Miles. We worked hard all night and we got rewarded,” said Duperreault who spent the season playing midget AAA with the Moose Jaw Generals. “The guys in the room have helped me settle in. That’s helping me with my game on the ice and I’m more relaxed out there.”
Brayden Point tipped in a great cross crease pass from Morgan Rielly to give the Warriors a 4-0 lead and chase Pats goalie Matt Hewitt who was keeping the score respectable. The assist was Rielly’s third of the night.
Teagan Sacher didn’t fare much better as Torrin White beat him to give the Warriors a 5-0 lead.
“They came out better than us, harder on us. We turned over the puck and they put it in the back of our net,” said Regina head coach Pat Conacher who said that even though both teams are out of the playoffs there is always something to play for.
“I am disappointed, but we do our best to prepare them every day. We tell them that people are watching each and every night. It doesn’t matter if you’re up, down, in the playoffs, out of the playoffs — it’s your responsibility as a player to be the best that you can be,” said Conacher. “Is going in and yelling and screaming going to motivate them? No. If you’re going to be anybody you have to be a self-starter.”
Paulic wasn’t particularly busy, but was solid when he had to be. His best save came with 1:29 left in the third period when he slid across to stop Marc McCoy’s one-time blast. Off of the subsequent draw he made a nice glove save off of Carson Samoridny.
“Sometimes it’s hard when you get very few shots in the first two periods, but as a team they played great all game,” said Paulic. “Even in the shots in the third weren’t the greatest scoring opportunities, so I was able to stop what I could.
“It feels awesome to get it. It would have been nice to get one earlier in the season, but that seems to be how it has gone in my last couple of hockey seasons.”
Hewitt stopped 14 of the 18 shots he faced. Sacher stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced in relief.
The Warriors will host Brandon Friday for their final home game of the season. The Yara Awards Night will begin before the game starts at 6:45 p.m.