The Moose Jaw Warriors have hit their stride coming out of the Christmas break and really took off over the past week.
Playing four games in five nights for the second straight week, the Warriors swept all four games, skating away with all eight points, and finishing things off with back-to-back wins over East Division foes, beating Saskatoon 4-0 on Friday and skating to a 4-1 triumph in Regina on Saturday.
“The last two games are the best team game that we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said head coach Tim Hunter following Saturday’s win over the Eastern Conference-leading Pats.
“We had four lines playing the right way and playing together as a block of five out there, it’s not about one individual, it’s about five guys when they go on the ice and we’ll try to build on that moving forward.”
The Warriors have won four straight games and have points in seven straight since losing 6-2 in Swift Current in their first game back after Christmas on Dec. 27. They now sit just four points back of the Pats for the top spot in the conference, Regina does have three games in hand, and they’ve extended their lead to four points on Swift Current with a game in hand on the Broncos.
“We’re on a roll right now and we’ve just got to keep this groove going,” said leading scorer Jayden Halbgewachs. “Right now for us, we’re learning to work as a whole group, all four lines have been playing and that helps to contribute to our success and our wins.
“In our defensive zone, it’s not just about our D, we’ve got to rely on our forwards as well, having a good third forward supporting our D, so everyone working as a unit together results in success at both ends.”
Halbgewachs combined to score six goals in four games last week, giving him a WHL-leading 37 on the year, while he also has a nine-game point streak going with eight goals and 16 points over that stretch.
The Warriors’ offence has been clicking, but the biggest contributor to their recent run of success may be the play of their two goaltenders. Zach Sawchenko has won his past three starts, including making 41 and 39 saves in his past two wins, while Brody Willms turned away all 23 shots he faced in his first career shutout on Friday.
“I’m just seeing the puck really well, our team is doing an amazing job of letting me see the puck and then if I do kick out a rebound, they’re clearing it away,” said Sawchenko. “One of the biggest things too is we’re slowing the game down too, if we need a whistle, I can cover the puck, we can reset and then we’re like a new team out there.”
Sawchenko credits a commitment to playing a full team game over the past few games as being the biggest part of their success.
“We’re all bought in,” he said. “This is the first time that I’ve seen every single guy bought in, everyone is doing the right things and it’s something pretty special to watch. We’ve got a special group here and I’m real happy and proud to be a part of this group. We’ve got long ways to go, but we’re playing well.”
The Warriors will look to carry over their success to this week when they kick things off against the Tri-City Americans at Mosaic Place on Tuesday. Following that game, the Warriors hit the road for their two-week BC Division road trip, starting on Friday in Vancouver against the Giants.