Warriors notch elusive home win

Matthew Gourlie
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It wasn't perfect, but it was far better than the alternative.

The Moose Jaw Warriors scored three first period goals and made them stand up in a 5-2 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes to record their first win at Mosaic Place in 2014.

"It's obviously been awhile and I think it's great that the fans get to experience a win after that long of a wait," said Warriors right winger Jack Rodewald who had a goal and an assist.

"I thought that for the most part we had the momentum. They did a really good job of coming back and getting pucks to the net and using their speed. but I thought we did a really good job of battling back every time they got a little momentum."

The momentum was squarely in the Warriors' favour in the early stages of the game. Brayden Point did great work behind the net to set up Rodewald to open the scoring 3:20 into the game. Sam Fioretti scored short-handed and Alexey Sleptsov scored a power play goal with 3.7 seconds left in the first period to give the Warriors a three-goal lead.

"We've been struggling to get the first goal. In the games where we have scored first, we've seen that it has been a closer game and we've been scratching right to the end," said Rodewald.

The Hurricanes — the owners of the worst record in major junior hockey — came out hard to start the second period.

Former Warriors defenceman Tyler Bell scored on a deflected point shot and Taylor Cooper scored midway through the period.

"We thought we played one of our best games of the road trip, we just didn't get the bounces," said Bell after the Hurricanes' eighth straight loss. "We have a lot of skill. When I first got traded (to Lethbridge) I was actually pretty shocked how much skill we had. We just need to come together a bit more and in the last six games we have to keep building.

"You hear a lot around the league about how Lethbridge is the laughing stock and I totally disagree."

Seven of Cooper's 12 goals this season have come against Moose Jaw. Those seven goals have come in six games.

The Canes speed earned them some good scoring chances, but Justin Paulic was strong in goal for the Warriors.  Cooper hit the post in the first period and Paulic stoned him in the second period. He robbed Giorgio Estephan and then stopped Jamal Watson twice on short-handed chances while the game was still in doubt.

"We always tend to have some moments where we get away from things a bit — whether it's a turnover or not making the wisest decision when we have the puck based on where we are on the ice when we have it," said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. "Overall I thought it was pretty good. I thought the guys played well and played hard."

In the third period Miles Warkentine scored his third goal of the season on a feed from Colton McCarthy and then McCarthy got a break with 21 seconds left when Cooper re-directed McCarthy's shot past Teagan Sacher in the Lethbridge net.

"I feel like I have a lot more confidence out there," said McCarthy who has been playing on the second line after striving together some solid performances. "It's been great. It's nice playing with (Fioretti) and Torrin (White). They're really good down low and it has been great having them on my line."

McCarthy got a break on his goal, but he made a confident cutback on the rush against Griffin Foulk to get a shooting lane in the first place. Defenceman Dallas Valentine set up Fioretti on a short-handed odd-man rush as some of the young Warriors have impressed in recent outings.

"It's nice to see that some of those other guys are having success," said Stothers. "We never stop thinking about lines and combinations and where guys will fit when we come back. There's a hole there, who's going to fill it? What role will he have and what-not. We're obviously still trying to win games now, but we're looking at where our strengths are and what are areas we want to try to improve upon and address. Who is going to step into bigger roles? There's some guys that are making some noise."

McCarthy who has four goals and seven points in his last six games. McCarthy has six goals and 11 points on the season.

"Mac looks like he's picked up his skating. That seems to be the biggest thing, he's seems to have a little more quickness to him," said Stothers. "We always felt he had the ability around the net. It's just a matter of getting there. It's a guy that's taking advantage of a bit of an opportunity and making the most of it. We need that."

Paulic made 24 saves in goal for the Warriors.

The Warriors had lost eight straight home games since beating Prince Albert on New Year's eve.

They will host the Regina Pats Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Mosaic Place). 

Geographic location: Lethbridge, Moose Jaw

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