A disappointing season drew to a fitting close Saturday night.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Bryson Gore from the Moose Jaw Warriors, right, beats Swift Current Broncos defenceman Brett Lernout wide Saturday night in WHL action at Mosaic Place.
The Moose Jaw Warriors played well, but that wasn't good enough in a 3-1 loss to the Swift Current Broncos as both teams concluded their Western Hockey League regular season schedule.
The Warriors generated plenty of chances, but were stymied by Eetu Laurikainen in the Broncos net and at the other end two turnovers and a power play led the Broncos' three goals.
"It definitely would have been nice to leave with a win, but it was a good effort from the guys tonight. We battled hard," said Warriors winger Jack Rodewald. "It's been a tough season, no question about that. It's going to be a long off-season. We're going to have a lot of time to think about what we could have done better. Next year is going to be different. We want to come in here and win."
The Warriors will finish the season with a 21-42-3-6 record but arguably played their best hockey in the last four weeks of the season where they posted a 6-5 record.
"It's always tough when you're eliminated and you're still playing. You're basically playing for the pride of the game," said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. "I'm proud of our guys. There were nights when we could have made it easy on the opposition, but I thought we played hard until the last game. That's an impressive trait from our guys and it shows a lot of character. It shows that we have the people in place to head in the right direction."
The Warriors mounted a modest four-game winning streak a week ago and beat the two best teams in the Eastern Conference in the process. Rodewald is hoping that taste of success will be good for the team going forward.
"The game is all about consistency. It's a lesson for next year for the young guys. It shows what happens when you can put together a string of wins — it starts to become contagious," said Rodewald who is expected to be a key contributor as a 20-year-old next season.
Swift Current moved into fifth place with the win and will meet Medicine Hat in the first round of the playoffs.
"We knew what was at stake in these last two games," said Broncos captain Colby Cave. "(The Warriors) are a hard working group and they've given us some really tough games this season. It's really important to have those games going into the playoffs. Having these close games shows the younger guys on our team what it's going to be like heading into the post-season."
Jay Merkley opened the scoring 5:33 into the game before Coda Gordon doubled their lead on the power play.
Jack Rodewald ripped his 28th goal of the season past Eetu Laurikainen with 18.1 seconds left in the first period to get the Warriors on the board.
Swift Current's Jake DeBrusk had a goal disallowed due to a high stick in the second period.
Brayden Point came the closest to tying the game in the third period. His wrap-around attempt deflected off of Broncos defenceman Brycen Martin and behind Laurikainen who was able to keep it from crossing the line with his stick.
Nathan Burns scored with 2:14 left to put the game away for the Broncos.
Point drew an assist on Rodewald's goal to extend his point streak to 12 games to close out the season.
Justin Paulic made 31 saves in goal for the Warriors.