It took a bit for the Moose Jaw Warriors to find their footing with seven players returning to the lineup, but the team clicked when it needed to on Friday night.
The Warriors scored three second-period goals and secured a 4-3 win over the Prince Albert Raiders at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
“We started a little slow, I thought the game picked up after our first [penalty] kill in the second period, after that we started to find a bit of chemistry,” Warriors assistant coach Gord Burnett said.
“I thought at times, we took over the game and then the third period, we kind of let them back in it.”
The Warriors had six players playing their first game of the season after retuning from NHL training camps, while Robert Baco was also seeing his first action after serving a five-game suspension from the preseason.
With some players arriving back in town on Friday afternoon, it took the Warriors a period to settle in.
“They haven’t practiced together, the power play hasn’t been together at practice and then all of a sudden, they get a lot of practice in today’s game,” Burnett said. “They’re just trying to find that chemistry again.”
Newly minted captain Denton Mateychuk arrived in Moose Jaw just a few hours before game time and led the charge for the Warriors, picking up three assists in Friday’s win.
Fresh off signing a three-year, entry-level contract with Edmonton earlier in the day, Max Wanner scored a highlight reel goal for the Warriors in his first game of the season.
He said it was an exciting day.
“Every kid dreams of that, growing up everyone wants to play in the NHL,” Wanner said.
“I was just pumped to be back and be with all the boys and I was trying to fit in, play my game and it worked out alright.”
The Warriors fell behind 1-0 early in the first period when Terrell Goldsmith’s point shot found it’s way past a screened Connor Ungar.
Moose Jaw found its stride midway through the second period when Eric Alarie tipped in a shot from Brayden Yager for a power play goal at 8:39.
Only 1:17 later, Wanner skated off the point and wired a shot over the glove off Prince Albert goalie Tikhon Chaika to put Moose Jaw in front for the first time on the night.
The Warriors added to their lead when Lynden Lakovic buried a wraparound for the 15-year-old rookie forward’s second goal in three games to open the season.
Just 3:22 into the third period, Jagger Firkus took a cross-ice feed and buried a shot for his first of the season to make it a 4-1 lead for Moose Jaw.
The Raiders didn’t go away though and Landon Kosior scored a power play goal with under seven minutes to play to make it a two-goal game.
Kosior would again cut into the Warriors’ lead, making it a one-goal game, with only 12 seconds remaining.
Prince Albert would get a power play chance in the final seconds, but a big defensive zone face-off win helped seal the game for Moose Jaw.
Burnett said the Warriors need to play a more team game moving forward.
“A little bit too much one-on-one hockey,” he said.
Yager finished with two assists, while Firkus had a goal and two points in his season debut.
Ungar made 18 saves as the Warriors outshot the Raiders, 33-21, in the win.
The Warriors will return to the ice on Saturday night in Brandon against the Wheat Kings. Tune into all the action on Country 100, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 5:40 p.m.
Moose Jaw is back on home ice to battle the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday night at the Hangar. Click here to purchase tickets.