Healthy, hungry Warriors looking to get in playoff hunt
The new year may be days away, but the Moose Jaw Warriors are ready to turn the page.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Moose Jaw Warriors right winger Jack Rodewald, left, avoids a hit from Saskatoon Blades defenceman Graeme Craig in WHL action earlier this season..
After a dismal start to the season, the Warriors returned to Mosaic Place on Boxing Day full of energy and optimism. The team owns a 10-21-3-3 record, but they’ve won their last two games and they have nearly their full lineup available as they head to Swift Current tonight to play the Broncos.
“I’m as excited for the second half as the players appear to be. I think it’s a real possibility and I think it’s very doable,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “I think it’s a heck of a challenge. It’s nice to have that carrot dangling in front of you, now let’s see what we can do with it.
“We have to do things the old fashioned way, we’re going to have to win games. We’re going to have to earn it because no one is going to give it to us.”
The Warriors welcomed back Brandon Potomak in their final game before the break after he had missed 20 games with a broken collarbone. Jack Rodewald had missed 13 straight games with a broken jaw, but he will return tonight.
“Those two wins were a huge part and now that we have some guys back in the lineup I think we’re looking forward to getting some things going and doing some damage,” said Rodewald who has looked sharp in the last two weeks. He has been able to practice while waiting for the six weeks he needed to sit out to allow his jaw to heal.
“Luckily I was able to skate and work out a lot in the last couple of weeks before the Christmas break. I had a couple of sessions with my trainer over the break and I was able to get out on the outdoor rink which helped,” said Rodewald.
There was a stretch where the Warriors were missing Potomak, Rodewald, Bryson Gore and Scott Cooke and with all four in the lineup tonight Stothers is looking forward to seeing how that helps their depth up front.
“I think this is the healthiest we’ve been. I don’t think we’ve really seen our lineup,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what we’ve got.”
Some of the players left their hometowns before dawn to get to the rink in time for practice, but there was plenty of energy on the ice. Stothers was happy with what he saw in what he called “a very spirited first practice” and is hoping to see more consistency from his team in the second half of the season.
“You have to focus on things you can control and that’s us being a more consistent hockey club in the second half from game to game and, quite frankly, from period to period,” said Stothers.
The Warriors are 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and will need to be significantly better than they were in the first half to get into contention, but the players haven’t lost any self-belief.
“We’re not out of it yet,” said Rodewald. “We have some ground to make up, but I believe — and I think everyone believes — that we’re a playoff team. That’s what it’s all about. We just have to keep getting wins.”