t wasn’t the season the Moose Jaw Warriors, or their fans, were hoping for.
Yet Friday night both parties left Mosaic Place with smiles on their faces.
The Warriors put together a strong showing in their final regular season game of the season and put the Brandon Wheat Kings 5-2. They two teams will conclude their Western Hockey League regular seasons tonight in Brandon.
“I thought we played a great first two periods and in the third we had a little lapse,” said Warriors left winger Sam Fioretti. “It hasn’t been the year that all of us wanted, but it was nice to give the home fans something to cheer at the end.”
The Warriors’ were the better team in the early going, but it was their power play that helped the build a 4-0 lead. The Warriors scored on their first four power play chances to take control of the game. They finished the night 4-for-6 with the extra man.
“We didn’t exactly draw them up like that — they were a little greasy — but we’ll take it,” said Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly. “I think everybody played well. We played hard. We knew it was our last time to play in front of our hometown crowd. It worked out well.”
Justin Kirsch’s hustle on the forecheck forced Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey into a turnover behind his net. Sam Fioretti buried the first to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead after the first.
Brayden Point doubled their lead with a power play goal in the second period, but Fioretti scored an odd one to put the Warriors ahead 3-0. Fioretti poked a puck loose after Honey appeared to have it. Fioretti’s shot was stopped by the stick of Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock and play continued for 30 seconds before video review ruled that the puck crossed the line before Pulock made contact with it.
Kirsch capitalized on a turnover to put the Warriors ahead 4-0 after two periods.
“It was exciting to get some points. We were a little lucky on a couple of the goals ... but it was a good way to finish it,” said Kirsch who had three points in the final home game of his WHL career.
“The last three games here we were trying to finish it strong and try to show what this team has for next year. We have a lot of good young players and they’re going to be a good team next year.”
Justin Paulic was making his 25th straight start and was sensational coming off of his first career WHL shutout.
Paulic made a great save at full stretch to rob Jens Meilleur at the side of the net in the first period and then out-waited Taylor Cooper on a breakaway to make a glove save. The Warriors lead was 1-0 when both of those stops were made. He finished with 27 saves.
Jason Swyripa scored on a deflection after a pretty passing play by Tyler Yaworski and Marek Kalus to break up the shutout. Swyripa scored short-haneded on a two-on-one with Tim McGauley and suddenly there was a lot of life in the Wheat Kings.
“We would have liked to have shown that a little earlier in the game,” said Swyripa. “It’s a tough loss. When you do get the wheels turning in the third like that it just goes to show what you can do.”
Thirty seconds after cutting the lead to two, Chad Robinson and Jens Meilleur broke in a two-on-none break. Paulic stoned Meilleur. Minutes later he made four saves in a sequence, the last of which on Nick Buonassisi was a gem.
Point scored his second of the night and 23rd of the season into an empty net with 50 seconds left to finish off the game.
Honey left the game after the second period, having made 23 saves. Corbin Boes was very sharp in relief and made 13 saves.