Great start not enough

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Warriors pick up a point after blowing three-goal lead

For the second night in a row the Moose Jaw Warriors looked like world-beaters for 20 minutes.

Saturday their great first period wasn’t enough to earn them two points.

The Warriors lost 5-4 in overtime to the Swift Current Broncos at Mosaic Place after leading 3-0 after a period. Julius Honka’s second goal of the game on the power play was the overtime winner for the Broncos.

“I thought our first period was really good. We were executing. We were moving the puck. We were zipping it around and making plays. We were  making smart decisions. We were excellent,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers, whose team scored five first period goals Friday in a 5-1 win over Prince Albert.

“In the second we got caught on our heels,” added Stothers. “We spent too much time in our end and we took some penalties — bad penalties. It was hooking and slashing and things that drive me bonkers. They are too good on the power play. That’s what that team lives for. They love it and they’re very good at it.”

The Warriors record is 8-16-3-2 in Western Hockey League action.

The Warriors got on the board when Erik Benoit tipped a point shot past Eetu Laurikainen 3:34 into the game. Sam Fioretti pounced on a Laurikainen mistake as the Warriors captain batted a rebound past the Finnish goalie while he tried to bat it away.

Jesse Forsberg scored another power play goal when he buried a loose puck in the crease. Brett Howden forced a turnover with some good work on the forecheck to create the chance that led to the goal.

That was the end of the night for Laurikainen. That was bad news for the Warriors as Landon Bow stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced in relief to earn the win.

“We knew we had to come out and be strong. In the first we were pretty soft and that’s not the kind of team we are,” said Bow. “We knew we had to get gritty and get in there if we wanted to win.”

Honka, Andrew Johnson and Zac Mackay scored in the second period for the Broncos to tie the game.

Justin Paulic did his best to keep his team in the game. He made 35 saves and his post-to-post glove save on Colby Cave was so larcenous that the officials reviewed it to see if the puck had crossed the line before he plucked it out of the air.

However, the Broncos’ fourth goal will be one he’ll want to forget. A shot by Jordan Harris hit Paulic in the shoulder and landed behind him and Jay Merkley knocked it in before Paulic could find the puck.

The Warriors bounced back and Howden scored his first WHL goal with a good backhanded shot to the top corner to cap a tremendous game for the 15 year old.

“It was a great feeling,” Howden said of the goal. “(In my first game) I was anxious and nervous. Obviously the play was a lot faster ... going through each game I gained more confidence and tonight I felt like I just played my role.

“It was tough at the beginning — those are big, tough guys and I had a bit of trouble at first. After I got in the game a bit, I got my confidence and felt in place.”

It was Howden’s fifth game as an affiliate with the Warriors. He will return to the midget AAA Eastman Selects and won’t be eligible to return to the Warriors until his midget season is over.

Not only did he look like he belonged in the WHL, but he looked like he belonged on the Warriors top line Saturday.

“The season was going well for me and the team. Going down to midget the pace will obviously be slower and I should have an extra edge to my game,” said Howden. “Now that I have this experience I’m excited to go back and help my team to do the best that we can.”

Stothers praised Howden and took a positive from the resilience his team showed in the third period.

“In the third I was proud of our guys. We had to battle back to make sure we at least got a point,” said Stothers. “All in all if we can keep finding a way to get three out of four we’ll make some noise and climb up the ladder.”

Stothers was happy with how the team looked with four days to practice heading into the weekend. They will have four more practices before their next game and he is hoping having the time to work on some things will help the new faces and some of their younger players.

“It’s so important to have practices in junior,” said Stothers whose team was coming off of a seven games in 10 days stretch. “I’m excited about (the week of practice ahead). I think it’s valuable. We have brought in new guys who really haven’t had much time to practice with us. Even going back to (Jesse) Forsberg. We were playing. It’s tough for those guys to learn what they’re supposed to do in this particular system.”

The home side was disappointed to let a three-goal lead slide, but felt they played well on back-to-back nights which is a positive sign in light of their recent woes.

“We can definitely take some positives out of this weekend taking three of four points against two pretty good teams in our division,” said Fioretti who had four points and needed three stitches in his lip after taking a puck in the face in the first period. “I think we’re starting to build some confidence here which is important. We want to get a bunch of wins before the Christmas break, so hopefully we can put ourselves in a good spot for the start of the second half.”

Warriors forwards Bryson Gore (upper body) and newcomer Scott Cooke (leg) could be ready to play by Friday when the Warriors host the Brandon Wheat Kings. Cooke skated with the Warriors for the first time Saturday morning and will need to be x-rayed again before being cleared to play.

Organizations: Broncos, Western Hockey League, Prince Albert Brandon Wheat Kings

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