It’s safe to say that things are coming together this season for the Moose Jaw U15 AA Warriors.
Moose Jaw left Manitoba on Sunday morning as the “C” side champions, after taking down the Southwest U15 AAA Cougars 5-2 in the final at the Winnipeg Jets AAA Classic.
Following the win Warriors netminder, Jayce Finiak walked away with the top goalie honours, which was voted on by Western Hockey League (WHL) scouts.
The Warriors finished the weekend with a 3-2 record, with wins against the Parkland Rangers U15 AAA, Southwest U15 AAA Cougars, and the Winnipeg Wild Red.
This tournament performance is the result of a Warriors team this season that has gone from last place to serious contender in the Saskatchewan AA Hockey League (SAAHL).
Moose Jaw won only one game last season, and as of Monday has a 5-8 record and sits sixth in the SAAHL U15 AA standings. Before heading into last weekend’s tournament, the Warriors had won four out of their last six games.
First-year coach, Curtis Pereverzoff says their recent success has been attributed to their game and practice habits.
“I look at the way that we want to compete in games and how are we doing that in practices that are going to translate that to a hockey game,” says Pereverzoff. “Lately, the boys have been doing a great job showing up prepared to work in practice and dryland and that is starting to translate into winning games.”
It wasn’t the start that the Warriors were hoping for at the beginning starting off 3-7 in their first 10 games, but since then have changed things around.
“I wanted to bring in a culture that these kids can recognize that they’re a good hockey team. That they’re good individually, but they can be a good hockey team together. That’s something that we’ve really tried to set forth at the beginning of the year. I think with anything new it takes some time to sink your heels into it and get used to that.”
This year the Warriors have been led offensively by forwards Carson Deichert and Ryan Gibbs, who are both in the top ten in league scoring and two-point-a-game players.
Gibbs also serves as the team captain and says that at the end of the day he and the team are just having fun on and off the ice.
“For me, it’s the team bonding,” says Gibbs. “Having that fun aspect on the bus and bringing that into the game. We’re all connecting well lately and we’ve just been having fun, which is making us want to win some more games.”
On the season, Gibbs is putting together a career year, as he has already put up 28 points in 13 games this season.
“This is definitely the most fun year I’ve had in my hockey career, being the captain of your team, being in the top ten in league scoring, we’re winning games as a team and having fun. I couldn’t ask for a better year right now.”
At the end of the day, hockey is supposed to be fun for the kids, and Gibbs says that he is having a lot of fun, especially with his linemate Carson Deichert who is having an impressive year so far notching 29 points in 13 games.
“We’re connecting really well, making plays with each other, and communicating on and off the ice before games, which has helped out a lot.”
Coming into this season Gibbs spent a lot of time on the ice building his skills, which has resulted in an impressive start to the 2022-23 campaign, which he hopes will result in his name being called in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
This season is a complete 180 from last, and the Warriors bench boss wants to make sure that the team keeps the pedal to the metal throughout the campaign.
“I preach to these kids a lot about playing without a ceiling and for me as a coach I have my expectations for where I want to see them play, but I want to continue seeing them show up, compete, and push each other to be better versions of themselves on and off the ice,” concludes Pereverzoff. “If we continue to do that, standings aside, I think we’re going to be putting ourselves in a really good position to be successful.”
You can see the Moose Jaw U15 AA Warriors in action on Tuesday, as they welcome the Weyburn Wings to the Bert Hunt Arena at 7:00 p.m.