Moose Jaw four points out of playoff spot
It was a chaotic finish, but the Moose Jaw Warriors will take the end result.
© Times-Herald photo by Lucas Punkari
Brayden Point from the Moose Jaw Warriors celebrates after opening the scoring on Swift Current Broncos goalie Landon Bow while Broncos captain Colby Cave and defenceman Dillon Heatherington look on.
Two Swift Current Broncos goals were reviewed in the final 69 seconds — one of them counted and one of them didn't — and Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko finished with 37 saves to preserve a 3-2 Warriors win.
"We made it pretty hard on ourselves at the end, but we're four points out and that's the main thing. We got two points and that's what we needed," said Sawchenko who made 16 saves in an outstanding third period. "We're going to be facing adversity as a team and you have to overcome it. That's how you win games."
With the win, the Warriors are four points behind the Broncos in the chase for third-place in the East Division. They are also six points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings in the chase for the wild card spot. The Warriors have a game in hand on the Oil Kings.
The Warriors have won four of their last five since returning home from their seven-game road trip.
"We're playing together as a team. We've all bought into the system and we're all pulling together for the same goal," said Sawchenko. "We're that little train that could. No one really expected us to be that close and we're slowly inching towards the top here."
The Warriors host the Saskatoon Blades tonight (7 p.m., Mosaic Place). They have seven games left in the regular season.
"I think people amped this game up too much. It was just a regular game," said Sawchenko. "We've been playing big games for a month and tonight was no different."
The Warriors protected a 3-1 lead for most of the third period. They were six seconds away from killing off a late Broncos power play, when linesman Sean Dufour inexplicably blew the play dead for icing. The face-off went to centre ice and off the draw, Sawchenko redirected Carter Rigby's shot off of the end glass. Colby Cave batted the puck out of the air and in before Warriors defenceman Ryan Gardiner could clear it with his glove.
The goal stood after a lengthy review.
It only took 25 seconds before the video goal judge was pressed into duty again. Broncos forward Jake DeBrusk banged the puck off of Sawchenko's pad before dislodging the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice, but the puck clearly had never crossed the line.
"I knew it wasn't in, but I also knew I just had to focus on the next shot," said Sawchenko who had Rigby on top of him when he stopped the DeBrusk chance with 46.6 seconds left. "It was nice to catch my breath too. I was pretty exhausted at the end."
Sawchenko's best save came earlier in the third period when he was sprawled on his stomach and managed to get a glove on a Tanner LeSann shot to redirect it off of the post when it looked like LeSann had the entire net to bury the rebound.
"That's the beauty about goaltending: if you never give up, you can make those saves," said Sawchenko who recorded his fourth shutout of the season with a 33-save effort Wednesday against Medicine Hat. He has won six straight starts.
"The team is playing great in front of me. They're keeping shots to the perimeter and blocking shots. It's really easy to play behind a team like that," said Sawchenko.
The loss was the Broncos' fifth straight.
"It was good push back at the end, but we needed that in the first 40 minutes. If we can't do that all night we're not going to make the playoffs," said Rigby, the Broncos' 21-year-old. "Anytime you lose, you shouldn't be happy. If anyone in the dressing room is happy, they need to take the jersey off and go home."
The Warriors built a 3-0 lead as they were the better team for the opening two periods.
Good work on the forecheck by Jack Rodewald led to Brayden Point opening the scoring. Blake Bargar scored early in the second period before Brett Howden scored a power play goal.
It was Bargar's first WHL goal and it came on his 17th birthday.
"It took me awhile to get it, but I'm pretty excited and relieved," said Bargar who is enjoying his first stretch drive in the WHL. "It's been exciting. Everyone is pretty pumped up and it's a different feeling in the room."
Rigby buried a rebound with 4:01 left in the second period to give the visitors a spark heading into the locker room.
The Broncos' current losing streak is even more surprising when you consider that it coincides with the return of world junior defenceman Dillon Heatherington form injury. They had a 9-5 record without Heatherington and have lost all four games since he's returned.
"When Heatherington was gone guys were playing really hard and they were getting more minutes," said Rigby. "He comes back and guys maybe sit back in their old role. They're maybe playing 10 minutes a night, instead of 20 minutes a night. I think it's a bit of a coincidence. Heatherington has been great for us. I don't think it has anything to do with how he's playing."
Landon Bow made 25 saves in goal for the Broncos.
Howden, Rodewald and Point each had two-point nights for the Warriors.
The Warriors were without 20-year-old forwards Tanner Eberle and Jaimen Yakubowski who remain shelved with upper-body injuries. Defenceman Tyler Brown returned to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury.
Tribe tidbits… Warriors general manager Alan Millar was fined $500 for his post-game comments to officials Sunday in Regina.