Young Warriors to face Swift Current tonight
Tonight might be the only night of the season where Mike Stothers doesn’t care if his team wins or loses.
The Moose Jaw Warriors head coach hates to lose, but he can also see the big picture. Tuesday’s rookie pre-season game in Swift Current is about assessing talent. That is far more important than the final score.
“All I want to see is what I usually want to see from a Warriors team: I want to see a good work ethic, I want to see a commitment, I want to see us playing the right way and I want to see a never-die attitude,” said Stothers.
“I’m not worried about the outcome. That’s not important to me. I want to see our kids compete.”
The Warriors began rookie camp with 73 players and have reduced that number to 35. They will look at 18 ’96, ’97 and ’98 born players in their game against the Swift Current Broncos.
One of those young players is their most recent first round pick: Brett Howden. The 6-foot-1 centre was taken by the Warriors fifth overall in the bantam draft.
“We worked our way up to this point from rookie camp to main camp and now to this point. Now we want to show them what we can do in the rookie game,” said Howden who said he has gotten more comfortable as he progressed through camp.
“Obviously at rookie camp it was all of us young guys, so we got a feel for the ice. Once we stepped onto the ice for main camp, lots of us were a bit anxious and nervous to be playing against 19- and 20-year-olds,” said Howden. “After awhile you actually see what they did out there and how they play and you calm yourself down. Once you’re on the ice you slow the game down and play your game.”
The young Warriors are looking forward to playing against another team after having scrimmaged against each other twice a day for the past four days. Stothers said he expects the game to be scrambly and erratic, but is hoping some of the structure they tried to implement will come through.
Stothers and his staff took some time in Monday’s afternoon practice to implement some systems and do some teaching with their young players.
“You hope that they’re retaining something. It’s a little overwhelming for them. I understand that,” said Stothers. “If they can go home and have learned one or two things about what it takes to be a Warrior then that’s a positive for us.”
Howden is used to playing above his age group after he played midget AAA a year ago with the Eastman Selects. He has been working to play to his strengths, but he knows it’s going to take time for his gritty game to translate at the WHL level.
“Obviously I need to work on getting my strength up there. I’m a big kid right now, but I need to put some more muscle on me and work on being strong in the corners,” said Howden.
Stothers was full of praise for the conditioning of the players in camp.
“I think it’s been very competitive,” said Stothers. “I think the guys are realizing that there may not be a lot of jobs open, but there certainly are spots that are and they want to take a real run for it.”
The Warriors will ice three 1998-born players tonight: Howden and fellow forward Ryan Bowen along with goalie Brody Willms. Veterans Colton McCarthy, Josh Uhrich and Miles Warkentine will also play as will Russian rookie Alexei Sleptsov.
Monday morning the Warriors reassigned eight players: goalie Alex Corley, defencemen Dylan Dix and Darren Rizzolo, plus forwards Matthieu Gomercic, Gianluca Esteves, Zac Whitby, Blake Bargar and Jacob Garman. Four of those players were drafted in the recent WHL bantam draft.
The Warriors now have four goalies, 12 defencemen and 19 forwards in camp. That doesn’t include Russian forward Alexander Chirva still waiting to get his visa to enter the country.
Tribe tidbits ... former Warrior Justin Kirsch skated with the veterans Monday afternoon. Kirsch is headed to Mount Royal University in Calgary to play CIS hockey.