Thursday, 17 November 2016

Warriors’ Luka knows offence

16-year-old nets three points in 5-1 win over Blades

Luka Burzan, second from right, celebrates scoring for the Warriors.
    Luka Burzan appears to be one of the select few that can make and immediate impact in the WHL as a 16-year-old rookie.
    The Surrey, B.C., product was selected by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round and sixth overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, and he made a name for himself by piling up the points coming up through the minor hockey ranks in southern British Columbia.
    Even with that in mind, most first round WHL Bantam Draft selections usually experience their share of bumps as 16-year-old rookies, and they will often have break out campaigns later in in their careers.
    On Thursday night before 3,302 spectators at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon against the host Blades, Burzan showed he is ready to break out now. The skilled forward netted the Warriors first two goals, picked up an assist on his squad’s third marker and helped power Moose Jaw to a 5-1 victory. In 15 appearances so far this season, Burzan has seven goals, six assists and is a plus-four in the plus-minus department.
    He also picked up his points playing right wing on a line that contained a pair of 18-year-old standouts in centre Noah Gregor and Russian import Nikita Popugaev playing left wing. Burzan envisioned himself playing in a top six forward role with the Warriors as a 16-year-old rookie.
Luka Burzan gets set up in the offensive zone.
    “Coming into this season, I thought I would just try to get better this summer and just try to work my hardest,” said Burzan. “Coming into this season, that was my goal was to get in the top six and get this opportunity. I am just trying to take advantage of it.”
    Against the Blades, Burzan showed he has the smarts to take advantage of good opportunities. With 1:21 to play in the first period, Burzan converted a nice pass from Gregor coming across the face of the Saskatoon goal and easily popped the puck into an open cage to give the visitors a 1-0 edge. It was a goal Blades netminder Brock Hamm had no chance at stopping.
    Just 1:40 into the second, Burzan received a nice feed from Popugaev and snapped home a low wrist shot stick side on Hamm to put the Warriors up 2-0. Burzan has found it easy to play alongside Gregor and Popugaev.
    “They are two very great players,” said Burzan. “They move the puck really well.
    “They are very smart. They have good vision. When I am playing with them, it makes it way easier.”
    At the seven-minute mark of the second, Burzan set up Gregor in the slot, and he blew home a shot to put the visitors up 3-0.
Warriors centre Noah Gregor zips wide around a Blades defenceman.
    Blades captain Wyatt Sloboshan stopped the bleeding momentarily just 23 second later sneaking home a goal between the legs of Warriors netminder Zach Sawchenko to cut Moose Jaw’s edge to 3-1.
    Before the second ended, Warriors centre Jayden Halbgewachs scored on the power play to give the visitors a 4-1 edge. Gregor rounded out the game’s scoring with a short-handed breakaway goal in the third.
    Zawchenko made 32 save to pick up the win in goal for the Warriors, who improved to 12-4-4. The star 19-year-old goalie came up huge in the first period turning away 15 shots. The Blades were carrying the play in the contest until Burzan popped home his two goals.
    Hamm, who has struggled all season, turned away 30 shots to take the loss in goal for the Blades, who fell to 9-12-1.
    Blades head coach Dean Brockman said his squad had too many break downs defensively, which allowed the Warriors to roll.
    “It just seems like every time we make a mistake it ends up in our net,” said Brockman.
    Burzan believes his Warriors have the talent to challenge the WHL’s elite teams like their arch rivals the Regina Pats, who are an impressive 15-0-3.
Blades head coach Dean Brockman glances at a scoreboard replay.
    Moose Jaw’s depth became stronger after acquiring 19-year-old left-winger Brayden Burke in a recent trade with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Burke finished third in league scoring last season with 27 goals and 82 assists.
    The Warriors are also awaiting the return of captain Brett Howden, who is listed as out week to week with a lower body injury. Howden was taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round and 27th overall in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. He had nine goals and five assists in 11 appearances with the Warriors this season before getting hurt.
    “I think we are going to have very good team,” said Burzan. “We are going to have good chemistry.
    “We just need to learn how to compete and play hardest up against these teams like Regina, those hard teams. I think we can compete with them.
    “We will just try to get better as a team, and I think we will have a good season.”
    The Warriors travel to Swift Current on Friday to take on the Broncos. The Blades head to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings on Friday and Saturday night.

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