It isn’t often the Regina Pats will do the Moose Jaw Warriors a favour, but Wednesday night was one of those rare occasions.
The Pats rolled out a 6-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos in Regina, which meant the Warriors officially clinched second place in the Western Hockey League’s East Division and as a result home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series with the Broncos.
A good thing, given the Warriors dropped a 3-1 decision to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday at Mosaic Place, meaning that a Broncos win would have had Swift Current trailing the Warriors by three points heading into their two-game home-and-home weekend showdown.
As it stands, the weekend games are essentially meaningless — unless you’re a team looking to find a way to win again in the middle of a four-game losing skid.
“This time of year, you can’t try to win a game when you only have about 13 guys playing hard. That was the case Friday night in Regina, we played a lot better Saturday night here, then last night and tonight, we had passengers,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter.
“Two of our best players, highest scoring players, no show in three of four games the last while. It’s not good enough and they have to explain why to their teammates that they’re letting down. If they’re going to play this way in the playoffs they won’t play in the playoffs.”
That things have reached this point so suddenly is remarkably strange. Only a week ago the Warriors were in the midst of one of their longest winning streaks in franchise history and looking to even chase down the Pats for first in the East. From that to suddenly looking in their rearview mirror as second place was threatened by the Broncos.
Makes little sense, given how the team looked to be hitting full stride the best time.
“I want to get things ramping up and I want to win, but I don’t know if there are three or four guys in that room who want to do the same,” Hunter said. “So we’ll see.”
Things looked good in the early going against the Wheat Kings on Wednesday: the Warriors outshot Brandon 11-4 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead out of the opening frame off a goal from Jett Woo on a shot from the point that found it’s way through traffic and past Brandon goaltender Logan Thompson.
As it turns out, that would be the last shot to get past the Wheaties netminder.
Connor Gutenberg tied the game midway through the second before Reid Duke gave Brandon the lead 1:38 later. Caiden Daley added an insurance marker with six minutes remaining in the game.
Brody Willms made 21 saves for the Warriors, while Thompson turned aside 28.
See Friday’s edition of the Times-Herald for more on this story.