Warriors take 39 shots, but lose 6-3 to Brandon in season opener
Moose Jaw Times-Herald
It’s a new season, but a familiar story.
The Moose Jaw Warriors created plenty of chances, but didn’t finish enough of them in a 6-3 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings at Mosaic Place.
Meanwhile the Wheat Kings have now won 13 of their 14 season openers.
“We had some good looks and we had some good chances. The toughest part is trying to digest 6-3 because it wasn’t a 6-3 game,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers.
“I thought we played well. I don’t think the score was indicative of how the game was played. There were some times when I felt we had good control of the play and some good chances in the offensive zone.”
Taylor Cooper scored a hat trick for the Wheat Kings while goalie Curtis Honey made 36 saves in the win.
“We needed some saves late in the game to get win. It’s important to get those saves when you need them, especially on the road,” said Brandon head coach and GM Kelly McCrimmon.
The teams traded goals in the first two periods before Brandon scored three unanswered to earn the win.
The Warriors will travel to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings Saturday night.
“I think there were a lot of positives — we got a lot of shots and I think we played a pretty strong game,” said Warriors centre Brayden Point. “We had the puck in their end a lot, but they did a better job of bearing down on their chances.”
Cooper opened the scoring for the Wheat Kings when he got behind the Warriors defence and was hit on a 100-foot pass by Dominic Thom.
The Warriors responded 46 seconds later when Brandon Potomak blew past Eric Roy and then picked the short-side top corner from a bad angle to beat Honey in the Wheat King goal.
That was the last soft goal Honey would give up as he held his team in the game as the Warriors dominated the second half of the first period and a good stretch of the second period.
“We lost (Rene) Hunter early which put a lot of pressure on our defence,” said McCrimmon. “I thought in the second half of the first period Moose Jaw really carried the play. We dug in the second a little better and the guys on the back end settled in a little better. In the third period I thought our goaltender made some really good saves. They had some chances, but I thought Curtis Honey had his best period.”
The Warriors scored on their first power play of the season thanks to Jack Rodewald to go ahead 2-1.
Two minutes into the second period, Point found a rebound, but the Warriors sniper hit the post with half the net open. Moments later Jens Meilleur tied the game for Brandon.
Point restored the Warriors lead when he finished off a pretty give-and-go from Tanner Eberle.
Ryley Lindgren tied the game for Brandon with his first WHL goal and Cooper’s gave the Wheat Kings a 4-3 lead after two periods. Cooper scored on another breakaway in the third period and Richard Nejezschleb scored into an empty net to ice the game.
The Wheat Kings started the game thin on defence. Captain Ryan Pulock is still at camp with the New York Islanders, while Taylor Green and Nick Walters are injured.
They lost 20-year-old Rene Hunter when he went to hit Russian rookie Alexander Chirva at the blue line. Chirva ducked to avoid the hit and sent Hunter flying in the glass. It appeared that Hunter hit his head on the dasher. Hunter was able to stand, but needed help leaving the ice and didn’t return.
Justin Paulic made his 27th straight start for the Warriors and stopped 26 shots.
Brandon has won 13 of their last 14 regular season openers. Only two of those have come on the road. The other win was in the first game at Mosaic Place. That was one of only three regulation home losses the Warriors suffered in the 2011-12 season.
Tribe tidbits … The Warriors didn’t have anyone wearing a ‘C’ Friday night and likely won’t until Morgan Rielly’s future is known. Fioretti, Eberle and Point each were assistant captains.