© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Todd Fiddler from the Moose Jaw Warriors slides the puck between the legs of Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey Sunday at Mosaic Place.
Out of all of the Moose Jaw Warriors on the ice Todd Fiddler probably had the least to prove.
Yet it was the 20-year-old veteran who made the biggest statement for the Warriors Sunday afternoon.
Fiddler scored a hat trick in his Warriors debut as they lost 6-4 to the Brandon Wheat Kings in Western Hockey League pre-season action at Mosaic Place.
“I haven’t played a game in awhile and my legs were a bit slow, but I had good linemates and they helped a lot,” said Fiddler who scored 42 goals last season with Spokane.
“I thought I had a good game offensively, but we’re going to have to work on our defensive game if we’re going to go far in the playoffs, or even make the playoffs,” the Meadow Lake product added. “I thought we got better as the game went on.”
Fiddler started out playing with Sam Fioretti and Jayden Halbgewachs. After the Wheat Kings grabbed an early 3-0 lead, Warriors head coach Mike Stothers put Brayden Point between Fioretti and Fiddler and they began to tilt the ice in the Warriors favour when they were out there.
“We fell behind and we decided to throw our horses together and we liked what they did,” said Stothers. “Fidds is known as a goal-scorer and he obviously did that tonight.”
Fiddler said he felt some good chemistry with the duo, though his first goal was on a four-on-four and Brandon Potomak sprung him for a breakaway for his second goal.
“We’re hoping that there’s some chemistry there and that he, Sam and Pointer can work some things. Though we’re not even sure we’re going to keep those three together on a regular basis,” said Stothers.
The Warriors had a lot of veteran forwards in the lineup, but it was the Wheat Kings — who had nine rookies in their line-up — who took control of the game early.
The Wheat Kings killed the Warriors in transition on the first two goals. Jesse Gabrielle and Kord Pankiewicz both scored on odd-man rushes to give the Wheat Kings a 2-0 lead. Kale Clague scored a power play goal 35 seconds after Pankiewicz’s marker to the visitors a 3-0 lead after 8:42.
“I wasn’t happy with the fact that we had offensive zone face-offs and we ended up digging the puck out of our net. That shouldn’t happen. You can’t go 200 feet and score in our net and it happened numerous times,” said Stothers.
“There was a little trouble sorting out on the back-check and a little trouble sorting out our positioning and containment on one-on-ones. It’s maybe not to be unexpected with a bit of a young crew ... but it’s unfortunate that it happened early.”
The Warriors trailed 4-0 before they got on the board, but Fioretti scored early in the third period and Fiddler scored a five-on-three power play goal to cut the Wheat Kings lead to 5-4.
Newcomer Alexander Chirva had a good chance to tie the game late. Wheat KIngs goalie Curtis Honey robbed Potomak midway through the third and then made a pair of nice saves off of Fioretti and Point in the final minute.
“Exhibition games are no different from regular season games, you can’t expect to come back when you fall behind. It’s a tough thing to do,” said Stothers.
“We made a game of it, so I’ll take that as a positive.”
Jack Palmer scored into an empty net to ice the win for the Wheat Kings. Chad Robinson and Taylor Cooper also scored for the Wheat Kings. Honey finished with 31 saves.
Zach Sawchenko allowed three goals off of 11 shots for the Warriors. Daniel Wapple came on midway through the second period and stopped six of the eight shots he faced.
Tribe tidbits ... The Warriors first round bantam pick Brett Howden was re-assigned to the midget AAA Eastman Selects following Friday’s game in Brandon. Following Sunday’s game the team also released 18-year-old forward Darcy DeRoose and re-assigned him to the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL ... Tanner Eberle scored a pair of goals — one on a penalty shot — in a Montreal Canadiens intra-squad at their rookie camp Sunday. Morgan Rielly (Toronto) and Travis Brown (Chicago) also attended NHL rookie camps this past week.