The Moose Jaw Warriors play in the last two weeks has fueled the belief in the team that they can make a push into playoff contention.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Tanner Eberle, left, from the Moose Jaw Warriors skates past Prince Albert Raiders defenceman MacKenzie Johnston Tuesday night at Mosaic Place.
Their wins in four of their last five games is a good start, but if the Warriors are going to claw their way back into the pack in the Eastern Conference they’re going to do it on the road.
The Warriors play 11 of their next 13 games on the road. That stretch includes their trip to the United States later in the month.
It starts with a tough three games in three nights trip to Alberta this weekend.
“We’ve got a heck of a challenge ahead of us,” said Stothers. “We’re out by 11 points and we know we have to get through this weekend road trip and then you have to get on that U.S. one and not too many teams have fared too well going through there.
“It’s up to us to get it done.”
The Warriors will be in Edmonton Friday, Calgary Saturday and Red Deer Sunday before returning home. Edmonton and Calgary have the two best records in the conference and Red Deer have won five of their last six heading into the weekend.
“They’re three very good teams that work really hard, so we have to match their work ethic,” said Warriors defenceman Travis Brown.
“It’s a new year now. We’re done half of the season, so we shouldn’t be making mistakes. It’s good to see that we’re cleaning that up.”
Defenceman Jesse Forsberg said that getting off to a slow start on the road can be fatal, but he hopes they can stay consistent as they get ready to spend most of January on the road.
“We have to win the special teams battle, keep the puck out of our zone and put pucks in the net when we get our opportunities. We want to keep rolling and not change what we’ve been doing,” said Forsberg.
The Warriors have played two very good road games in their recent run as they’ve limited their opponents power play time and have been able to control puck possession in wins in Prince Albert and Swift Current.
“I haven’t really minded the way we’ve played on the road,” said Stothers whose team has nearly the same record at home as they do on the road — a sharp contrast from previous season. “We had a stinker in Regina awhile back, but if we play on the road like we did in Swift — we weren’t sitting back and letting things happen, we were dictating and we were creating and we were still responsible enough defensively. We were pretty darn good and we were pretty darn good (Tuesday). Maybe it’s a sign that we’re getting there, we’re understanding it and we’re applying it. The true test — what we’ve dealt with in the first half — is consistency: is it going to be there for all three games?”
The Warriors got good news before the trip as defenceman Reid Zalitach practiced twice and is expected to be available to play.
“We’re healthy. We should be at full strength health-wise,” said Stothers. “If you’re going to go into it with a lot of games it helps having some bodies to work with. We can play hard and if someone gets banged up we can put someone else in who is healthy and full of energy.”
None of the three Alberta buildings have been kind to the Warriors. They won in Red Deer and Calgary on consecutive nights in 2011-12 and haven’t won in Edmonton since 2010-11.
The Warriors are 1-9-0-1 in Red Deer since 2008.
Following their trip to Alberta, they come home to play Red Deer on the 10th and then a week later head for a tour of the U.S. Division as they play six games in nine nights.