In a game full of momentum shifts and scoring opportunities, the Moose Jaw Warriors knocked off the CHL’s top ranked Portland Winterhawks, 6-4, on Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The win was the Warriors’ 10th of the season, which ties them for the WHL lead with the Victoria Royals, and also improved their record to 3-2 on their seven-game U.S. Division road trip.
“We wanted to go into the game and just pressure their d-men and not give them anything and we were just getting pucks on net and we got a few dirty goals, and we out worked them as well,” said Second-year forward Luka Burzan after the Warriors’ third straight win.
Burzan’s first goal of the season gave the Warriors some breathing room early in the third as it came just 16 seconds after Alex Overhardt pulled Portland within one.
After entering the game with 28 shots through 12 games and getting no rewards, Burzan was able to come up big for the Warriors at a key time.
“It feels good to get the first one out of the way with that I gain a lot of confidence and going forward, I’m just going to play my game and do the right things,” said the Surrey, B.C. product after the game.
“He was overdue and deserved that one,” said Warriors assistant coach Mark O’Leary. “He does all the right things, he takes pucks to the net and that’s what Luka is — he’s a hard guy to contain, he’s got that wide speed, he takes pucks hard to the net and it’s tough to defend against.”
The two teams traded goals over the first 30 minutes of the game as each side used their speed and skill to generate scoring chances.
Brett Howden had opened the scoring for the Warriors late in a back-and-forth first period, but Skyler McKenzie answered quickly for Portland, scoring just a 1:06 later to tie the game at 1-1 after one.
Jett Woo put the Warriors in front 2-1 just 3:46 into the second period, but Kieffer Bellows’ eighth of the season tying the game at 2-2 with 10:11 gone in the second.
The Warriors finally broke through late in the middle frame, starting with Howden’s second of the game, and sixth of the season, with 6:15 left and then Tanner Jeannot snapped in his fifth of the year with 2:10 remaining in the second to make it 4-2 for Moose Jaw after 40.
Overhardt’s power play goal just 2:40 into the third period pulled the Winterhawks within one, but Burzan answered right back for the Warriors just 16 seconds later.
Bellows scored his second of the game with 3:35 remaining in regulation, but Jayden Halbgewachs slide the puck into an empty net with 50 seconds to go to seal the big road win for the Warriors.
“It was a draining with the highs and lows, but we stuck to the process and a good sign was when we gave up that one power play goal, we answered right back, that’s a sign of resiliency and a sign of a team that doesn’t get too rattled, so there was some real good moments tonight,” said O’Leary.
Halbgewachs led the Warriors with a goal and four points, while Howden had two goals and three points, Woo and Jeannot finished with a goal and two points each, and Brody Willms made 31 saves.
Riding a three-game winning streak, the Warriors will finish up the U.S. Division portion of their road trip on Wednesday with a trip to Kennewick, Washington to play the Tri-City Americans, who enter with five straight wins. Catch all the action on Country 100 starting with the Westrum Lumber Timber Mart Pre-Game Show at 7:40 p.m.
Warriors vs Americans Notes… This will be the first and only meeting of the season between the Warriors and Americans. Moose Jaw is 2-2 against the Americans in the last five years and that includes a 1-1 record in Kennewick.
Last season, the Americans narrowly beat the Warriors 3-2 on Jan. 10 at Mosaic Place. Burzan and Howden had one goal each for the Warriors and Zach Sawchenko took the loss. Morgan Geekie led Tri-City with two goals, Vladislav Lukin had two assists, Carson Focht had one goal, and Evan Sarthou got the win.
The last time they played in Kennewick was Nov. 24, 2015 and that night the Warriors doubled the Americans 4-2. Dryden Hunt led the Warriors with two goals and Willms got the win in net.