Warriors open the preseason with 3-1 win over Brandon

Nick Pettigrew

Jackson Unger was 2:48 away from picking up a shutout in his first career WHL start.

The 16-year-old netminder made 18 saves in a 3-1 win for the Moose Jaw Warriors over the Brandon Wheat Kings in the preseason opener at Mosaic Place on Tuesday night.

“It was a great first game with the jersey and it was going well throughout the whole game and then just got unlucky in the last two minutes with a bad redirect, but I thought I did really well,” Unger said.

Head coach Mark O’Leary was pleased with the performance from his rookie goalie.

“As a coach when you look out, you just want to see a guy that makes you feel good and confident and he certainly does that,” he said. “We’ve been real excited about Jackson and his development in the early going.”

Unger spent time with the Warriors in the Subway WHL Hub last season, but didn’t see game action. He said it was exciting to make his preseason debut at Mosaic Place.

“There was lots of fans, all the lights, it was just a whole different environment, it just makes me feel like I’m getting one step closer to my goal everyday,” Unger said.

The Warriors outshot the Wheat Kings, 38-19, in the victory to open the exhibition schedule.

While both teams dressed young lineups with many players away at NHL training camps, O’Leary said he was pleased with the effort he saw out of his squad.

“I thought start-to-finish, we played to our identity, we attacked pucks when we didn’t have it, we played a pretty hard north-south game, put pucks to the net and we were first to rebounds, so that’s a pretty good start for the kids,” he said. 

The Warriors jumped on the Wheat Kings in the first period for all three of their goals.

Jagger Firkus opened the scoring for the Warriors, banging home a loose puck in front of the net for a power play goal.

Robert Baco extended the lead to 2-0 just over two minutes later with a goal in the slot.

The Warriors made it 3-0 with a goal from Riley Niven, who tipped in a point shot from Denton Mateychuk.

After a scoreless second period, Vincent Iorio got Brandon on the board with just under three minutes to go in the game, breaking up Unger’s shutout bid.

The Warriors continue their preseason schedule this weekend with a home-and-home against the Swift Current Broncos. Moose Jaw travels to Swift Current on Friday and then hosts the Broncos at Mosaic Place on Saturday night (7 p.m.).

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