Veterans lead the way in 5-2 win
Sunday night the Moose Jaw Warriors found the consistency that has eluded them for so much of this Western Hockey League season.
© Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman
Travis Brown of the Moose Jaw Warriors pushes Aspen Sterzer (11) of the Kamloops Blazers out of the way as tries to fight for the puck during Western Hockey League action on Sunday evening at Mosaic Place.
The Warriors were rewarded with a 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers, which snapped their seven-game losing streak. The Warriors lost 4-1 in Brandon Saturday.
“I thought it was a great performance for us,” said Warriors captain Sam Fioretti. “We’ve been stressing playing 60 minutes and we played as close to a full 60 minutes as we have all year.
“We’ve been getting a little better every day and finally we were rewarded.”
The Warriors were dominating the game and out-shooting Kamloops 24-8, but
had a slim 1-0 lead.
Then Brayden Point scored on consecutive shifts to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead and control of the game.
“There were plenty of good things, but there were moments when you can’t help but shake your head,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers.
“I’m not even going to analyze the game. We found a way to get two points which it seems like we’ve been waiting an eternity for. We’ll just take the win, congratulate the guys, feel good about it and get ready for Tuesday’s game.”
Special teams defined the early part of the game. Fioretti opened the scoring on a five-on-three power play and Point scored the vital second goal on the Warriors’ seventh power play of the game 7:29 into the second period.
The 3-0 goal came when Point’s shot hit the post, deflected off of the back of Blazers goalie Taran Kozun and into the net.
Cole Ully got the Blazers on the board, but Tanner Eberle responded two minutes later. Eberle blocked a Sam Grist point shot and beat Kozun high to the short side on a partial breakaway.
Eberle was reunited on the top line with Point and Fioretti Saturday in Brandon and the trio were dangerous all night.
“I’ve been working hard and I’m starting to see it pay off,” said Eberle.
“I love playing with Sam and Pointer. I was off their line for a bit, but I worked my way back on it. I found that Saturday in Brandon we were clicking well too. We really found each other out there (Sunday).”
Eberle easily could have had four or five goals. He was robbed by Kozun and his backup Cole Kehler and he also wasn’t able to connect on a couple of chances at the side of the net.
“If I didn’t get one I’d be pretty upset,” said Eberle. “I don’t know what was going on out there. The goalie seemed to have my number, but I finally figured out to shoot blocker side on him.”
Point finished with three points and was on the ice for all five of the Warriors goals. The trio swept the three stars.
“I thought we were doing well on the cycle and out-working their defence and that gave us some success,” said Fioretti. “We haven’t been together in awhile, but when you play with two guys like that the chemistry comes easily.”
Matt Needham scored in the third period for Kamloops, but Torrin White scored into an empty night to put the game away.
Moose Jaw was 2-for-11 on the power play as they spend much of the game in the Blazers’ zone.
“I think the road trip caught up to us. It was our fifth game in six nights with a lot of travel and we took a lot of foolish penalties at bad times,” said Kamloops head coach Dave Hunchak whose team had won three straight heading into town. “It seemed like we were killing penalties all night long and that taxes your guys pretty quick.
“We chased the game. That’s the bottom line. Moose Jaw had a good game plan: they attacked us and came right after us and didn’t give us a chance to get out of our zone.”
The Blazers allowed more than 40 shots for the fourth straight game and it finally caught up to them. Kozun made 26 saves and Kehler stopped 10 shots after he came in for the third period.
While the lead was comfortable, Justin Paulic did his part to keep the Warriors well in front. He stopped Aspen Sterzer at full stretch with a good pad save and later stopped a Tyson Ness deflection in close. Paulic finished with 24 saves.
The Warriors are happy to finally get back in the win column, but they’re looking to go into the break on a winning note Tuesday in Prince Albert.
“Winning this game is huge, but it’s about doing it two in a row. So we’ll see how we come out Tuesday,” said Eberle.
Tribe tidbits ... Kamloops’ Aspen Sterzer was given a double-minor for boarding after he drove Reid Zalitach’s face into the dasher in front of the Warriors bench which cut Zalitach’s upper lip for six stitches. Two of those stitches didn’t last the game after they were ripped out in a late melee ... Before Sunday’s game the Warriors held a moment of silence for Lori Kilgour, a Warriors Booster Club member, after she died Thursday. Kilgour was 45. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and in 2012 — while cancer-free — she helped with the Warriors Stick It To Cancer campaign.