This weekend saw the Moose Jaw Warriors get back on track after stumbling to open their seven-game U.S. Division road trip.
The Warriors skated past the Everett Silvertips, 6-3, on Friday and then downed the defending WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds, 2-1, on Saturday to improve their record to 9-3-0-0 on the year.
“We started off the road trip kind of rough, but the last two games we’ve been working way harder and we’ve gotten to a game where we’re happy but also want to get better,” said forward Justin Almeida, who scored the game-winner on Saturday with just 1:15 remaining in regulation.
Heading into the Warriors’ road trip, the team had been playing well, but hadn’t been able to put together a complete game. They struggled to do that again in the two losses to open the trip, but Warriors assistant coach Mark O’Leary said they definitely got that over the weekend.
“I don’t think I’ve seen us play like we did in the third period (Saturday),” said O’Leary on the Country 100 Post-Game Show after Saturday’s win. “It was led by the effort of Tanner Jeannot, he really drove the bus tonight, he’s a man out there and he dragged everyone along. He led by example and that third period was one of the best we’ve played and it was impressive being at the end of four games in five nights.”
After suffering their first back-to-back losses of the young season earlier this week, the Warriors rebounded well and Almeida said it’s because they got back to playing their style of hockey.
“Guys are clicking and it’s a testament to just playing the right way, being hard to play against and getting on your check,” he said.
The Warriors’ fore check was very effective in Saturday’s win and eventually wore down the Thunderbirds for the win.
“That’s just the willingness to take the puck inside, guys like Gregor, Halbgewachs and Howden, they’re good players, but they’re even more dangerous when they drive pucks inside and force the issue,” said O’Leary. “The Almeida line was dangerous as well, Burzan had a plenty of chances on the door step.
“We’re willing to go to those areas right now, which is a good sign, and hopefully they start to go in.”
Almeida has been a big part of the Warriors’ strong start to the season with seven goals and ten points in 12 games. He had 11 goals and 28 points in 70 games last season.
The Warriors currently have six players with double digit points through 12 games.
They’re now halfway through their seven-game road trip with three more games on the way this week. Almeida said the group is really coming together as they travel 3,700-kilometres around the Pacific Northwest.
“Everyone is hanging out and we’re definitely building that camaraderie,” he said.
The Warriors will head into Portland on Tuesday night to square off with the Winterhawks, who were the top ranked team in last week’s CHL Top-10 rankings and feature NHL first round picks Cody Glass and Kieffer Bellows.
“We know it’s a big game we want to show our best and that we can play with anybody,” said Almeida.