This season’s edition of the Moose Jaw Warriors aren’t the kind of team that takes losing well.
It’s become an uncommon feeling for the Tribe in 2017, one that they haven’t felt often. But when it has hit, it’s been even more less than pleasant. Case in point, their 3-2 shootout defeat at the hands of the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday night.
Even though the Warriors scored in the dying seconds to tie the game and had a handful of chances to win in overtime, neither the players nor their coach were remotely happy with how things played out.
And for coach Tim Hunter, that disappointment carries far further than just their most recent game.
“We haven’t played well for the three Saskatoon games, the Calgary game, this game, they were all very similar,” Hunter said. “The compete level, certain guys played OK and certain guys went back to their old ways. The players will answer as to whether or not they competed hard enough.”
What say you, Luka Burzan, one of the goal scorers on Saturday?
“I just think our effort wasn’t there tonight,” he admitted. “Our first was good, but in the second period we took our foot off the gas and weren’t playing the right way and that’s the result you’re going to get when you play like that.”
The Warriors carried the play and outshot Prince Albert 12-6 in the first period, with Burzan scoring the period’s lone goal.
The game took on a different look in the second period, first when Jordy Stallard scored 35 second into the period and Eric Pearce gave the Raiders the lead 2:26 later.
The shots? 12-8, plenty indicative of the play.
The Tribe threw the kitchen sink at Prince Albert in the third, but goaltender Curtis Meger was up to the task until eight seconds remained in the contest.
Playing a 6-on-5 with their goaltender pulled, Chase Hartje got off a shot from the left face-off circle that Jayden Halbgewachs managed to deflect home, securing the Warriors at least one point.
That was far from good enough for Hunter, who was exceptionally dissatisfied with how things have played out over the last couple weeks.
Something he expects to change, and right soon.
“We went through about 20 games where we got out of our comfort zone and played hard and competed and played what I call the right way, and now in the last short while… we’re playing teams lower in the line-up and our guys thought they could get back to their comfort zone and be nice boys and just play the game, they’ll get another shift and they’ll get another scoring chance and they’ll get to play and everything will be great.” Hunter said.
“That’s how it’s been the last 10 days. My job is to get them out of their comfort zone and stop them from being nice little boys and playing the game the way they want to play it and push them a lot more. That’s what we’ll have to do.”
Burzan has a pretty good idea of what that will require.
“I think we just need to play a full game every night,” he said. “We know every team can beat every team in this league and we just have to get back to our game show our full effort for the full 60 minutes and not let off the gas at all. Every shift, if you’re not working hard, something can happen, so that’s why you have to always work hard.”
The Raiders improved to 10-10-3-1 with the win and are four points back of the Regina Pats for fourth in the East Division.
The Warriors fell to 19-5-0-1 on the season and remain in first place overall in the Western Hockey League, a point up on the Portland Winterhawks and two up on the Victoria Royals, who they’ll face Tuesday (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).