Warriors vow to hold each other accountable

Matthew Gourlie
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Bad third period sinks Tribe in 3-1 loss to Brandon

The Moose Jaw Warriors have lost 19 games this season.

Bryson Gore from the Moose Jaw Warriors, right, looks to get past Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Colton Waltz.

Saturday’s loss felt different.

The game itself played out like so many others in the team’s disappointing Western Hockey League season: the Warriors put together two good periods, but were punished when their play dipped. In this case the Brandon Wheat Kings scored twice in the third period for a 3-1 win at Mosaic Place.

After the game the Warriors players met to address what has gone wrong as they sit mired in a skid that has seen them post one win in their last 11 games.

“We’re not happy,” said captain Sam Fioretti. “We’ve put ourselves in a situation where we haven’t had success and it’s on us to turn it around.

“Everybody needs to be held accountable. Everyone from us old guys down to the younger guys. Nobody is above anyone else on this team. Each guy needs to be accountable by everybody.

“(Head coach Mike Stothers) is there to hold us accountable, but I think it’s a lot different when your fellow teammates are holding you accountable.”

The mood is never jovial after a loss, but the expressions on the faces of the Warriors players who left their room were more akin with a season-ending playoff loss.

“We’re not happy, but we know no one’s going to feel sorry for us. We have to get back to work Monday. We have to try to get better every day,” said Fioretti who left what was said in the Warriors locker room. “I think everybody in the room knows what we have to do to have success.

“It’s on us. It’s the guys in the dressing room that are going to turn this around and we need to pull together as a group.”

There’s no mystery about the nature of the Warriors’ struggles.

Some nights they have been out-classed, but more often they have out-played and out-chanced teams for long stretches of the game and watched their hard work come undone with one bad period.

“You try to reinforce those mini positives and to keep doing the things that you’re doing well,” said Stothers. “It’s frustrating, but that’s part of the teaching process. We will continue to find different ways to deliver the same message.”

As the midway point of the season nears, the Warriors appear to be unable to learn from their mistakes.

“I guess the message has not sunk in far enough yet,” said Stothers who said that their turnover issues coupled with them spending too much time in their defensive zone will continue to be addressed.

“You have to keep reinforcing what needs to be done,” he added. “It is sinking in. It’s just not sinking at the rate of speed that we would like. And it’s not sinking in with everyone we need it to sink in with. We will continue to bang away at it.”

Fioretti has been talking about the need for a consistent 60-minute effort since the early stages of the season and yet it still has been out of their reach far too often.

“You have to play a complete 60 in this league to be successful. That’s our focus and we need to be held accountable in that,” said Fioretti. “We’re definitely doing this to ourselves. We’ve put together spurts where we’ve played well and then we’ve let teams back in it. That’s just not acceptable.”

The Warriors have scored first in each of their last five games and lost them all.

Friday the Warriors blew a 4-1 lead to Regina before losing in a shootout. Saturday they were out-shooting the Wheat Kings 24-11 after two periods and were out-chancing them by a wide margin as well.

Yet, the game was still tied 1-1 and the Wheat Kings took nine of the first 10 shots in the third period. Brandon’s Quintin Lisoway scored the go-ahead goal and the Warriors never recovered.

“We didn’t do what we were doing all night. We were turning pucks over. We just weren’t playing our game,” said Fioretti of their third period.

The Warriors had a number of first period chances, but Brandon goalie Curtis Honey robbed Tanner Eberle short-handed, stopped Torrin White in the slot and stopped Bryson Gore on a breakaway.

“I think all of that practice time may have made me a better goalie,” said Honey who was making his first start since Oct. 30 as he recovered from an injury. He said he didn’t mind being peppered in the first period.

“It was a good warm-up after not having played for a month and then I settled in after that,” he said.

In five games against the Warriors Honey has a .947 save percentage. He has a .853 save percentage in his nine appearances against the rest of the league this season.

“I don’t think it’s anything in particular,” said Honey of his success against the Warriors. “I go out and play every game the way I normally would, but I do think that it’s maybe something that’s in the back of your mind. You have a good feeling going into it.”

Reid Zalitach finally beat Honey with a slapshot into the top corner. It was Zalitach’s first career WHL goal and came on teddy bear and toque toss night.

The Wheat Kings tied the game when a defensive breakdown left Eric Roy with a free lane to the net where he redirected Brett Kitt’s pass past Zach Sawchenko.

The Wheat Kings’ fourth line accounted for their first two goals as Lisoway notched the game-winner before Tyler Coulter scored into an empty net with nine seconds left.

As Brandon poured it on in the third, Sawchenko made some impressive saves. The Wheat Kings also hit the post twice in the final period.

The Warriors had a chance on a late power play, but it ended early when Eberle was called for tripping in a battle for position in front of the Wheat Kings’ net. A minute later the Warriors fans were howling for a call when Rene Hunter dropped White with a hit to the head along the boards, but the Wheat Kings weren’t penalized.

Organizations: Brandon Wheat Kings, Western Hockey League

Geographic location: Regina

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