There’s been something missing from the Moose Jaw Warriors’ game over the past weeks. Since beating the Swift Current Broncos two weeks ago, the Western Hockey League’s top team has been able to win games without bringing their best effort.
That caught up to them on Saturday in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Prince Albert Raiders at Mosaic Place. It was only the second loss in the past ten games for the Warriors, but a continuation of the struggles that the team has had over the past five games.
“We went through about 20 games where we got out of our comfort zone, we played hard, competed, stopped on pucks and played what I call the right way, but now in the last short while, playing teams lower in the (standings), and our guys thought that they could get back to their comfort zone, be nice boys and just play the game,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter after Saturday’s loss.
“That’s what we’ve had in the last 10 days, so my job is to get them back out of their comfort zone, stop being nice little boys and playing the game the way they want to play it and push them a little bit, so that’s what we’ll have to do.”
The Warriors started strong again on Saturday, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, but it was all Prince Albert after that. The Raiders scored twice in the opening three minutes of the second period and held that lead until there was eight seconds left when the Warriors pressured for the game-tying goal from Jayden Halbgewachs.
Prince Albert continued to take the game to the Warriors in overtime, outshooting Moose Jaw 5-1 in the extra frame, and then they scored the lone goal in the shootout for the win.
Halbgewachs put the loss on the Warriors’ top players, saying that they needed to lead the way for the team.
“We’re not playing at our best potential, everybody’s got to be going every night, you can’t take nights off, especially our top lines, you need to score every game, you’re expected to score every game,” said Halbgewachs.
“We just weren’t competing hard enough on pucks, when you get that puck, you’ve got to be determined to score and tonight we just weren’t determined.”
Despite their struggles recently, the Warriors still lead the WHL with 19 wins and 39 points through 25 games this season. Hunter said that them finding success when not at their best is part of the problem.
“Everyone gets all enthused about certain people playing well, we talk about them playing well, you guys are doing interviews and they’re all on TV and everything is great, and then they have a night like they had tonight, these people that are suppose to be playing well, suppose to be leaders on the team,” said Hunter.
The Warriors will look to get back on track quickly with a big week ahead. On Tuesday, they will host the B.C. Division-leading Victoria Royals, who enter the game two points back of Moose Jaw for top spot in the WHL, and then they have a home-and-home showdown with the Swift Current Broncos on Friday and Saturday to kick-off December.