Warriors can't take advantage against injury-riddled foe
Heading into Saturday’s game Moose Jaw was riding a three-game winning streak and Swift Current was missing seven players.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Swift Current Broncos defencemen Brett Lernout and Brycen Martin and goalie Landon Bow manage to foil a scoring chance by Moose Jaw Warriors winger Jack Rodewald in the third period Saturday night at Mosaic Place.
The conditions may have been ideal for another Moose Jaw Warrior win, but the Swift Current Broncos skated away with a 4-1 win that spoke volumes about why they’re leading the East Division standings — and why the Warriors are 12 points out of a playoff spot.
“We underestimated them. They had a short roster and we took them lightly. That ended up biting us in the back,” said Warriors centre Bryson Gore who had the team’s only goal.
The Warriors performance was a level below where they had been playing in recent weeks and head coach Mike Stothers was not impressed with the performance against a Broncos team that only had 15 skaters dressed.
“We’re not a team that can afford to assume anything. I mean who are we? Come on,” said Stothers when asked about his team taking the Broncos lightly. “We were in a very giving mood tonight.” Jake DeBrusk scored on the first shift of the game, 18 seconds in, for Swift Current. With the game tied 1-1, the Broncos went ahead for good when Colby Cave won a draw cleanly and Brett Lernout scored with 7.2 seconds left in the first period.
“If you can get a goal at the start of the period or the end of a period it can really swing the momentum,” said Cave, the Broncos captain. “We wanted to get the lead for our goalie and we were able to shut it down after that.”
The Broncos were missing four of their top six scorers — Graham Black, Julius Honka, Coda Gordon and Dillon Heatherington — with their top two defencemen included in that group.
“We were missing a lot of guys tonight, but I thought as a group we played one of our best team games of the year,” said Cave who had a goal and an assist. “Everyone played their role.
“You hear about those guys going down and you think ‘oh man...’ but we just have to stay positive. As a leadership group we pushed that and the guys did a good job.”
Considering their three NHL draft picks were all out and they only had one of their three 20-year-olds on the ice, that leadership group was pretty small.
“You get guys like Zac Mackay, Connor Sanvido, A.J. Johnson who have all been around the league and they all stepped up and really showed their leadership skills,” said Cave.
Landon Bow made 35 saves for the Broncos to earn the win, but Stothers felt the Warriors made life easy for him.
“If we were a baseball pitcher we would have been happy with our location tonight because he hit (Bow) right in the middle of the fricking chest with every shot. He didn’t have to work,” said Stothers. “Anything we generated we put right in the middle of him. He covered it up. They got a faceoff. They got their line changed. They got whoever they wanted out there on the ice and then they won the faceoff.”
Defenceman Travis Brown, the Warriors leading scorer, didn’t see the ice in the third period. Stothers would only say that Brown “needed an adjustment” and that he was healthy.
Newcomer Kevin Pochuk had a tough debut. The Warriors defenceman was beaten wide by DeBrusk on the opening goal. Pochuk’s turnover led to the 3-1 goal by Mackay. He also didn’t see much ice after that third goal, but Stothers was a little more charitable with the 18-year-old who has been playing with the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
“It’s a different pace. You’re used to playing at a certain level and a certain pace and it gets ramped up,” said Stothers. “We weren’t expecting miracles from him. We’re having a look to see what he can do and we think he can provide us with some steady play. You have to start somewhere. He’ll get better.”
Gore deflected a Pochuk point shot off the post, off of Bow’s leg and into the net to tie the game.
The Warriors poured it on in the third period, but couldn’t beat Bow despite out-shooting the Broncos 15-7. Though they failed to capitalize, they looked a lot more like the team that dominated their first half of Friday’s game in Swift Current.
“Our game is playing down low, cycle, wear the other team out. That’s what we do best,” said Gore. “If we keep doing that, pucks are going to go in and things will start to go our way.”
Justin Paulic made 22 saves in the loss.