Slow start, no finish

Matthew Gourlie
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Tribe can't dig out of three-goal hole

The Moose Jaw Warriors nearly overcame a horrible start, but ultimately were undone by their finish.

Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko stretches to make a save Friday against Red Deer.

The Warriors gave up three goals in the first seven minutes, but had three late power plays — including a penalty shot with 18.1 seconds left — and failed to tie the game. The Red Deer Rebels hung on for a 4-3 win over the Warriors at Mosaic Place.

“It’s never a good thing to be trying to comeback from any kind of a deficit. We had our opportunities. We couldn’t find the back of the net,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “Collectively we needed a better start, but I think the thing that bothered me the most was our turnovers. We were trying to beat guys on-one-on in the neutral zone. We hurt ourselves in a lot of ways.”

The Warriors spent 5:17 of the final 7:23 of the game on the power play. They peppered Rebels goalie Patrik Bartosak with 10 shots on their final two power plays and failed to score. They looked to have been thrown a lifeline when Braydon Point was hauled down a breakaway. However, Bartosak stopped his penalty shot as Point struggled to get off a quality shot as the puck wouldn't settle down.

“Patty has been like that all season. Even though it was Pointer on the penalty shot, we were pretty confident in Patty. He makes big saves for us,”  said Rebels captain Conner Bleackley.

The Warriors finished 0-for-6 on the power in their first game without Travis Brown. They were also without Russian defenceman Alexey Sleptsov and deployed Sam Fioretti on the point for much of the game.

“We’re still feeling that out,” said Stothers. “We’re trying to get the right combinations with Travis not there. It’s just a matter of getting some reps. At the start it was a little scattered, but as the game went on it started to look a little more organized and I thought they got some good looks.”

The game was the Warriors final home game for 21 days as they prepare for the U.S. road trip. They will have a week off before they open the trip Friday in Portland.

The Warriors earned an early power play and took the first four shots of the game, but weren’t able to score.

Warriors goalie Justin Paulic only stopped two of the first five shots he faced as the Rebels scored three goals in 3:20.

Paulic gave up a juicy rebound to Scott Feser who hit the post before Vukie Mpofu buried the rebound to open the scoring. Twenty seconds later Aspen Sterzer doubled the Rebels lead with a shot that beat Paulic high glove side. Bleackley then scored on a breakaway that Sterzer set up. That was the end of Paulic’s night as Zach Sawchenko came in off the bench.

The first two goals weren’t great goals, but White said the blame for their slow start was squarely on all of their shoulders.

“It’s unacceptable. We definitely threw Paulie under the bus there in the first five minutes,” said Warriors winger Torrin White. “As a team we weren’t prepared to play when the puck dropped and it cost us in the end.

“We had a good push-back, but it’s an unacceptable loss.”

The early 3-0 lead was just what the Rebels needed. They were playing their third road game in four nights and were on a three-game losing skid.

“I don’t think we’d scored the first goal in a game in awhile. We let off a bit there and that’s something we want to work on, but to spot us those first three goals was huge,” said Bleackley.

Point got the Warriors on the board before the end of the first period when he was left alone in front of the Rebels net. Ben Duperreault scored his fifth goal of the season to get the Warriors to within a goal.

Bleackley was left all alone to net his second goal of the game.

White got the Warriors back to within a goal when he banged a loose puck in from a scrum in the crease.

The Warriors weren’t able to get any closer, but Sawchenko did well to hold them in the game. He stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced and stood tall as the Warriors killed a double-minor and a two-minute five-on-three power play in the middle of that to stay in the game.

“I gave the team a chance and that’s all I can do, but that being said we didn’t get the two points and that’s all that matters. As a group we all have to be better,” said Sawchenko who is coming off an outstanding week at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. “All 22 guys want to make the playoffs and I truly believe that we can. But we have to start chipping away at it night by night.

“I don’t really care if I’m playing as long as we’re winning I’ll be happy.”

The Warriors were down to six defencemen with Sleptsov out. He suffered a lower body injury Sunday, missed practice with the flu and then he and Alexander Chirva traveled to the Consulate General of the United States in Calgary to get their visas squared away before the team heads on their road trip. Both players were back in Moose Jaw Friday, but neither one dressed.

Defenceman Kevin Pochuk was reassigned to Virden of the MJHL earlier in the week after playing five games with the Warriors after Christmas.

Geographic location: United States, Calgary, Moose Jaw

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