Moose Jaw’s own Liam Fitzpatrick has put together a season to remember for the Moose Jaw WINMAR AAA Warriors.
Fitzpatrick finished the year with 73 points on the season including 37 goals, which is good enough for the first in team and league scoring.
Last year, he notched 39 points in 41 games and said he went through a tough off-season training regimen to prepare for this season.
“I was training five days a week,” says Fitzpatrick. “I came back with a lot of confidence this season and it has seemed to help my game and has made me work even harder when I’m on the ice and in the gym.”
The 17-year-old Moose Jaw Minor Hockey product says that the key to his success this season has been focusing on constantly improving every single day, which has resulted in a stellar season.
“I think it’s just coming to practice and working out every day, just the will to get better,” adds Fitzpatrick. “Just putting 100 per cent effort in all the time and having the mentality of wanting to improve.”
Prior to Friday’s 5-1 loss in Regina, Fitzpatrick had a 19-game point streak going with 43 points (24-19-43) in that span, which began on Dec. 17, 2022.
This season Fitzpatrick has been able to come through when the game is on the line notching eight game-winning goals, which led the league as well.
“Those are the type of situations where you have to be confident with the puck and have to trust yourself and your teammates out there.”
He notes that being a player that his team can rely on in overtime or late in the game is a trait that he has been striving for in the last few years.
For the Warriors and Fitzpatrick, it hasn’t been the easiest of seasons, as before Christmas the team was 10-13-0-3 and was sitting in 8th place. Since Christmas, the team found their way and went on a tear finishing the season 14-4-0-1 and at one time had both an eight and four-game win streak over that span.
“Before Christmas, it was almost new and everyone was still getting to know each other. After Christmas, we started to gel together a lot better. We then started to become more consistent, which was an issue we had in the first half and then we continued to keep on winning in the second half.”
In 2023, the team was able to find a way to win in close games. Following Christmas, the Warriors found themselves in eight one-goal games but were able to dig deep and come away with six wins.
He notes that those wins were attributed to the team never giving up.
“I know some of those we were down with a couple of minutes left and we end up scoring to tie it. It’s definitely a big boost going into overtime and kept battling for the win.”
The next task for Fitzpatrick and the Warriors are the first round of the Saskatchewan Male U18 AAA Hockey League playoffs. They will begin their quest for a league and provincial championship on Friday night against the Saskatoon Contacts.
Fitzpatrick says that in order for the team to come away with a series win they will have to keep things simple.
“We need to be strong defensively and make sure to get pucks into the offensive zone. When our neutral zone is good, it’s a big part of our game because the Contacts like to chip pucks out of their zone. If we can forecheck them hard it will help get shots on the net and create scoring opportunities.”
Game one will kick off in Saskatoon on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place and Game 2 will be at the Moose Jaw Events Centre at 1:30 p.m.
This being Fitzpatrick’s last season with the team and playing hockey at the U18 AAA level, he touched on memorable moments of the season.
“Last week, the team went to Peacock and played some team volleyball and curling. It was nice to do some fun activities and do something together.”
His plans for next year are to play with his older brother Caelan in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) with the Brooks Bandits. He hopes to get an NCAA Division I hockey scholarship in the United States that will allow him to continue his playing career while getting an education in the process.