Warriors hurt Raiders playoff hopes

Matthew Gourlie
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Moose Jaw wins fourth straight game as they double-up P.A.

After being embarrassed a week ago in Prince Albert, the Moose Jaw Warriors exacted a measure of revenge.

Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko stretches to rob Prince Albert Raiders forward Collin Valcourt at the side of the net Tuesday in WHL action at Mosaic Place

The Warriors did their best to spoil the Prince Albert Raiders' playoff hopes by handing them a 6-3 defeat Tuesday at Mosaic Place. The loss dropped the Raiders out of a playoff position as the Warriors won a season-high fourth straight game.

"It feels good to know that right now it appears we're heading in the right direction," said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. His team is playing their best hockey of the season and have beaten Calgary, Edmonton and Prince Albert at home in consecutive outings.

"There is some satisfaction for a team that has taken its lumps all year to upset the apple cart for teams that are trying to get into the playoffs or trying to get first in the conference — or just flat out had their way with you," added Stothers. "I'm not referring so much to P.A., but Calgary and Edmonton haven't held back or let up on us when we've been inexperience and young and a little bit naive. It's a great feeling."

The Warriors (21-40-3-6) will finish the season with a weekend home-and-home with Swift Current.

A week ago the Warriors trailed the Raiders 2-1 after the first period when the roof caved in. The Raiders scored five goals in the middle stanza and posted a 9-2 win. The Warriors haven't lost since.

Tuesday, the Warriors trailed 2-1 after the second but fought back to enter the third tied 3-3.

Though the Raiders were playing for their playoffs lives, the Warriors had the better of the third period and out-worked the visitors. Jesse Forsberg got a break when his power play point shot was deflected past Raiders goalie Nick McBride by his defenceman Sawyer Lange to give the Warriors a 4-3 lead. Tanner Eberle padded the lead after taking advantage of a Tomas Andrlik turnover before scoring his second of the night into an empty net.

"It's definitely nice to get a little revenge after they kicked our butts up there," said Warriors right winger Jack Rodewald. "I'm proud of all of the guys. They're really working hard. They want to show the coaching staff what they have. The way we're playing we're earning these wins and I think it's a really good thing for our team to close out the season."

Forsberg gave the Warriors an early lead before reigning WHL player of the week Leon Draisaitl took over for the Raiders. He tied the game and then helped put the Raiders ahead. Draisaitl made a no-look backhanded pass from the corner and hit Collin Valcourt on the tape and in stride as he drove to the net. Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko stopped Valcourt's first attempt, but was powerless to stop the rebound. The Raiders had a chance to go up 3-1, but had a goal disallowed due to a Calder Brooks being in the crease.

"We were turning pucks over and we were a little loose on (Draisaitl). We tried to tighten up and make sure we're in his face and in good position," said Forsberg who has 10 goals on the season after his two-goal night. "We have nothing to lose. We're laying everything on the line and it's been a lot of fun."

The Warriors tied the game on a power play goal by Rodewald and he put them ahead briefly when he made a quick deke on McBride after Brayden Point showed off his quick hands to get out of traffic before setting up Rodewald.

Raiders defenceman Josh Morrissey tied the game with a blast that lodged in the twine of the net to even things up heading into the third period.

The Raiders were in a three-way tie for seventh place heading into the game and after Brandon's 8-5 win over Saskatoon they are tied with Red Deer with both teams having three games remaining. Red Deer holds the tiebreaker between the teams.

"We need every single point right now. We're in a tight spot and obviously it's disappointing that we lost this one," said Draisaitl. "We had way too many turnovers at their blue line and at our blue line — in fact in every area of the ice we had too many turnovers."

The Warriors are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference right now. The players acknowledged it would have been nicer to be on this kind of roll when it may have helped their playoff hopes, but they're happy to be playing well after a tough season.

"We're hot right now and we had some chances to do it earlier in the season, but we didn't get a couple of good bounces and we can't control that. We just have to take advantage of the roll we're on now," said Rodewald.

Tuesday's win was their fifth game in eight days. For the fourth time in that stretch they didn't ice a full roster and Stothers was proud of his under-manned team continued to battle.

"I'm really proud of the way the guys have come in and competed," said Stothers. "We haven't shied away from anything. I think this group, despite our win-loss record has given an honest effort most nights. It's a good sign of character in our room that you're playing a team that is very good and playoff bound and you don't let up."

Point chipped in with three assists. The Warriors were two-for-two on the power play.

Sawchenko made 26 saves to win his second straight start.

It was the Warriors' second annual Snowbirds night. The team wore special edition Snowbirds jerseys. Those jerseys — plus the 11 jerseys that the Snowbirds wore during the pre-game ceremonies — which will be  auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Children's Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. Conexus Credit Union is matching the funds raised through the jersey auction. The jersey action will continue on mjwarriors.com.

The Warriors dressed 11 forwards as Scott Cooke (lower body) was out of the lineup. Reid Zalitach (knee) and Brandon Potomak (upper body) continue to be sidelined. The Raiders were missing defenceman Graeme Craig with an upper body injury.

Organizations: Raiders 2, Prince Albert, Children's Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan Conexus Credit Union

Geographic location: Calgary, Edmonton, Moose Jaw Red Deer Saskatoon

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