The Moose Jaw Warriors were down early, but they weren’t out as they pulled off a big comeback win in Swift Current on Friday night.
The Broncos led 3-0 after the first, but the Warriors charged back with three goals in the second period before Josh Hoekstra won the game, 4-3 in the 12th round of the shootout.
“It feels real good for the team, especially coming into the playoffs,” Hoekstra said. “There’s going to be games like that where you’re down, maybe down in the series and just knowing that we can do that and hopefully we can bring it into the playoffs.”
Hoekstra scored shorthanded in the second period and then added the game-winner in the shootout in the win.
The Warriors clinched a spot in the 2023 WHL Playoffs with the victory and stayed five points ahead of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We want to keep building, getting better as a team down the stretch and play some good hockey,” Warriors assistant coach Scot King said. “We’ve got this light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll be in the hunt to go after it.”
Hoekstra said locking up a playoff spot is big for the team.
“Feels great and now we’re just one step closer and we can keep working so we do well,” he said.
Matthew Gallant and Atley Calvert added goals during the Warriors’ comeback in the second period.
Jackson Unger was sharp between the pipes, making 40 saves in regulation and overtime before adding another 10 in the shootout to preserve the victory.
“He made some real big saves down the stretch, shots in the shootout, he was great,” King said.
After some good pressure for the Warriors early in the first, it would be the Broncos that would strike first when Mathew Ward scored with 7:43 gone in the opening frame.
The Broncos took control of the game when they picked up goals from Drew Englot and Clarke Caswell only 22 seconds apart late in the first to move in front 3-0 after one.
The Warriors came out firing to start the second, but weren’t rewarded until Gallant broke in for a highlight reel with 5:01 left in the middle frame. It was Gallant’s second of the season and second straight game with a goal.
That goal broke the game open for the Warriors with Hoekstra scoring shorthanded just over three minutes later and then only 1:02 after that, Calvert tied the game with his 36th of the season.
“After that first period, we got in the room and some guys were down, but then a few guys stepped and said what we needed to do,” Hoekstra said. “We’ve got the skill and came out, we worked harder and the skill took over.”
Both teams had opportunities to win the game in the third period and overtime, but both goalies came up with big stops, sending the game to a shootout.
After Josh Davies scored in the second round of the shootout, Jagger Firkus found the back of the net in the third round to extend the game.
Caswell scored in round 10, but Martin Rysavy answered for the Warriors to keep the shootout going before Hoekstra won it two shooters later.
The Warriors are now 4-1 this season against the Broncos. The two rivals will finish their season series on Saturday night at the Moose Jaw Events Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on Country 100 with the voice of the Warriors' James Gallo.