It didn’t take long for the Moose Jaw Warriors to receive their first taste of adversity this Western Hockey League season.
An injury to Warriors defenceman Colin Paradis on Friday against the Regina Pats left the Tribe with only five rearguards for their Saturday match-up with the Red Deer Rebels — who, along with the Warriors, were one of only four undefeated teams remaining in the league at that point.
Challenge met and beaten.
Brayden Burke and Justin Almeida scored three minutes apart midway through the first and the Warriors went on to a 4-2 victory at Mosaic Place. That win came only 24 hours after the Tribe took a 5-4 overtime win over the arch-rival Pats.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, but playing five D, I thought they did a pretty good job and our forwards didn’t help out enough at times,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter. “But again, we found a way to score three goals and keep the lead and not give them much momentum.”
The contest was tight-checking throughout, with both teams keeping the opposition largely to the outside and forcing shots from range. Almeida’s goal was one of those, with his innocent-looking shot on Rebels goaltender Ethan Anders tipping off his trapper and into the net.
As it turns out, that goal was the product of a touch of timely coaching the night prior.
“The last game against Regina I came down the wall and passed it into the middle and turned it over, then Tim told me to make sure to shoot it on net there,” Almeida said. “That was going through my head when I was driving wide, just get it on net and anything can happen. Luckily he flubbed the puck and it went in.”
Grayson Pawlenchuk got one back for Red Deer with 3:29 remaining in the second, but Tristin Langan got that one back early in the third. Mason McCarty’s power play goal at the 7:04 mark pulled the Rebels back within one, but that would be as close as they’d get as the Tribe put on the defensive clamps in front of goaltender Brody Willms.
A late-game penalty kill and empty-net goal by Jayden Halbgewachs closed out the victory. Brody Willms turned aside 17 of 19 shots for his fourth-straight win.
“These games are tight games and we want to show these are ones we can win as well as the high scoring games,” Almeida said. “We want to be able to play the game any way we have to in order to win.”
The contest was the second hard-fought battle the Warriors dealt with in as many days, as Brett Howden scored in three-on-three overtime to give the Tribe a 5-4 win over the Regina Pats.
Defenceman Oleg Sosunov had a pair of goals, while Halbgewachs and Burke each had a goal and an assist in the game; Willms made 30 saves.
Sam Steel had a goal and two assists for Regina, Emil Oksanen scored twice and Dawson Davidson had their other goal. Tyler Brown took the loss, stopping 33 shots.
The Warriors are back in action Friday when they host the Kootenay Ice (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).