Moose Jaw wraps up road swing against Tri-City and Medicine Hat
If the Moose Jaw Warriors want to get back on top of the CHL rankings, they are off to a good start after defeating the number-one ranked Portland Winterhawks 6-4 in WHL action on Tuesday night in Portland, Ore.
However, despite the win, the team still isn’t looking at what the CHL rankings are saying.
“We don’t look at it because they are the number-one team ranked in the CHL,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter. “We’re just trying to win hockey games and trying to refine our game.
It was a chippy contest right from the beginning as both teams combined for six hooking or high-sticking infractions.
“I was disappointed in the amount of penalties we took,” said Hunter. “But they have a good power play and I thought Brody Wilms made some big saves.”
Wilms stood on his head for the Warriors as he stopped 43 of 47 shots, while the Winterhawks outshot the Warriors 47-37.
The players were given two days off in Everett and Seattle before facing Portland because they had played four games in five nights and needed rest. While the time off may have affected the Tribe in the first period, it was a much needed break according to Hunter.
“The first period they may have been a bit rusty having two days off but I think it was really beneficial and helped them,” he said.
Brett Howden opened the scoring at 15:42 of the first with assists from Jett Woo and Jayden Halbgewachs, yet Portland answered back a minute later as the game was tied up 1-1 after one period of play.
Woo scored his fifth of the year on the power play only 3:46 into the second period to restore Moose Jaw’s one-goal lead. Portland’s Kieffer Bellows found the back of the net at 10:11 of the second to once again tie it up.
Howden scored his second score of the game at 13:45 to pull the Tribe ahead 3-2. Howden finished the game with two games and an assist.
“I think he played probably one of his best games in his WHL career last night in Portland,” Hunter said.
Tanner Jeannot scored late in the second period to give the Warriors a two-goal advantage.
After a power-play goal at 2:40 of the third by Portland’s Alex Overhardt, Luka Burzan scored 16 seconds later to make the score 5-3 in favour of the Tribe.
Bellows scored his second of the game to pull the Winterhawks within one, but a Halbgewachs empty netter sealed the deal for the Warriors. Halbgewachs finished with one goal and four helpers.
“They are a real good team, good goaltending and big defence,” Hunter said. “I thought we challenged the puck, I thought we managed the puck well and got some timely goals.”
The Warriors wrap up their road swing against the Tri-City Americans on Wednesday night and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday night. Results from the Tri-City game were not available at press time.
Moose Jaw is 3-2 during this road swing and Hunter said their goal was to come out of it above .500.
“To only score one goal in two games is not great. But on the Everett side, giving up only two goals against on the road is really good,” Hunter said.
“So you take the good with the bad and try to build on it. To be up three games to two on the road here. To finish above .500 is our goal. Tri-City is a different animal tonight, a different team. They are big, they are strong and try to intimidate. So we have to be ready for that type of stuff. The rest is just a matter of playing our game, which we believe is a pretty good game and should give Tri-City a tough test tonight.”
The Warriors return home on Nov. 2 when they host the Prince Albert Raiders at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.
The WHL also announced their leadership group for the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series and it will include Howden as assistant captain.
Howden was drafted in the first round, 27th overall, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. As the Warriors’ captain, he has 15 points in 11 games played. He was named to the WHL team last year, but was forced to withdraw due to injury.
“There are a lot of good people on that CIBC Russia Series team, lots of guys who are captains on their own teams, but at the end of the day, Brett has been a captain longer than most of the guys on the team,” said Hunter, who will serve as Team Canada’s head coach.
“He’s worn the ‘C’ longer than some of the other guys that are captains on their own team in the WHL. So that and my familiarity with him and how he’s responded and how we want the team to play at the World Junior has something to do with this too. I think Brett has embraced all that and I think he’ll be a great assistant captain for this team.”
The CIBC Canada Russia Series kicks off on Nov. 6 at Mosaic Place.