Warriors work their way to win

Matthew Gourlie
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Point leads resilient Tribe to 4-3 win over P.A.

The Moose Jaw Warriors are happy to be leaving 2013 behind.

Brayden Point from the Moose Jaw Warriors lunges to score his second goal of the game past Prince Albert Raiders goalie Cole Cheveldave Tuesday at Mosaic Place.

They’re even happier to bid it adieu with a win.

The Warriors finished the year on a high note beating the Prince Albert Raiders 4-3 in front of 3,857 fans at Mosaic Place. They were a disappointing 23-40-4-6 over the calendar year.

“We played an excellent game” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “We responded when we needed to — in a positive way. We were sound. They got a couple of goals, but there was nothing really glaring. There were no stretches where you thought ‘oh jeez, here we go...’ We just looked composed.”

In short, the Warriors looked more like the team they want to be moving forward. They were aggressive on the forecheck, tenacious on the puck and they limited their mistakes.

“It’s something we talk about. You want to spend time in the offensive zone and you want to wear the other team down,” said Stothers. “We’re not usually the bigger team, so to fatigue them we have to spend some down in their end. I thought we were great below the goal line. I thought we were great going to the net. We kept possession of the puck. We weren’t just throwing it away. We were making plays.”

The side benefit of spending a lot of time in the offensive zone is that the Warriors weren’t hemmed in their own end very often.

“There’s nothing worse than spending a whole lot of time in your own end,” said Stothers. “Eventually you either get fatigued or panicky. That’s when mistakes are made. If you can do that to the other team, then great.”

It was a back-and-forth game despite the Warriors holding a territorial edge. The Warriors had the better of the first period, but saw Prince Albert’s Reid Gardiner open the scoring on an odd-man rush.

Scott Cooke tied the game for the Warriors when he batted a rebound out of the air. Brayden Point had been buzzing all shift and with Josh Uhrich providing traffic in front Kevin Pochuk’s point shot was served up for Cooke by Raiders goalie Cole Chevedave.

“All of our guys were good tonight. We played a good cycle game,” said Point who had arguably his best game of the season.  “After Christmas we’ve been able to come back and regroup. It’s a bit of a fresh start for us. Since Christmas we’ve been able to cycle the puck pretty well.”

The Raiders took a 2-1 lead off some great work by Carson Perreaux short-handed and some terrible defensive work. Warriors defenceman Dallas Valentine lost the puck at the blue line and couldn’t prevent Perreaux from going in on a breakaway. Warriors goalie Justin Paulic stopped Perreaux, but Alexey Sleptsov over-skated the bouncing puck behind the net and Perreaux recovered it and took two more cracks at jamming it past Paulic before scoring.

Instead of the goal being a backbreaker, the Warriors stuck with their game plan. Point scored power play goals at the end of the second and the start of the third to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead.

“I felt like I had a lot of legs in the warm-up. I felt pretty good. It takes everyone to win and I thought we all had a pretty good game,” said Point who has six goals in the last five games. He also has points in five of the last six games since he wasn’t invited to play in the Top Prospects game.

“I don’t know if it’s a chip on my shoulder or maybe just a little more motivation. I’m not angry or upset about it. I just want to try to prove myself a little more,” Point said of the snub.

The Raiders power play tied the game through Chance Braid, but Jesse Forsberg scored from the point off of a faceoff win by Bryson Gore with 4:35 left to the put the Tribe ahead for good.

“We gave everything we had tonight and we stayed even keel and were on top of things,” said Forsberg. “Our last five games — minus parts of the Swift Current game (Saturday) — have been awesome. We just have to continue to do that and get some points.”

The Raiders were missing Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey who are both at the world juniors, plus Matteo Gennaro, Brendan Guhle and Nick McBride who are at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

“Lots of guys are getting improved roles on lines and lots of guys are getting power play and penalty kill time,” said Gardiner. “Guys have definitely stepped up in a time of need. We want to get those guys back, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“It was back a back and forth game. Moose Jaw had a lot of jump coming out of the gate. We tried to match their intensity. We’re disappointed, but we worked hard.”

The Warriors healthy scratched wingers Alexander Chirva and Brandon Potomak and dressed seven defencemen and 11 forwards. As a result Ben Duperreault played on Sam Fioretti’s wing and had a good night while Point saw some double-shifting and responded to it well.

“You’re always in the game and you never get out of it. It’s an honour to get all this ice and I’m going to try to keep working hard,” said Point.

Fioretti had two assists, while Cooke had a two-point night — not bad for a guy with four career points in his first 79 games in the league heading into this season. Pochuk was a plus-two in his second game with the Warriors and had a strong bounce-back from a shaky debut.

The Warriors were also missing defenceman Reid Zalitach who is sidelined with an upper-body injury.

The Warriors record improves to 12-22-3-3 on the Western Hockey League season. They head out on a three games in three nights road trip to Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer starting Friday.

Organizations: Raiders, Perreaux, Prince Albert Western Hockey League

Geographic location: Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Edmonton Calgary Red Deer

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