Sunday, 21 January 2018

Warriors OK with being hunted

WHL’s top squad knows foes will keep them honest

Brecon Wood (#17) scored a first period goal for the Warriors.
    Jayden Halbgewachs said you can tell his Moose Jaw Warriors are gunned for by every other team in the WHL.
    On Sunday afternoon at the SaskTel Centre, the Warriors took a 3-1 lead against the host Saskatoon Blades only to see that edge evaporate into a 3-3 tie early in the third period. With 7:03 to play in the third, Warriors standout overage right-winger Brayden Burke snuck a bad angle shot home short side on Blades sensational rookie netminder Nolan Maier to give the visitors a 4-3 edge.
    Burke’s goal restored control of the contest to Moose Jaw. Halbgewachs potted his 51st goal of the season into an empty net with 4.9 seconds to play in the third to seal a 5-3 regular season victory and disappoint most of the 4,511 spectators in attendance.
Brett Howden had a goal and an assist for the Warriors.
    The win was the third in a row for the Warriors and their 11th victory in their past 12 games. They lead the entire WHL with a 38-7-1-2 record and have a nine point cushion on the 33-11-3-1 Swift Current Broncos for the overall lead in the standings. Moose Jaw is rated second in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top 10 rankings.
    While the Warriors are enjoying what might turn out to be their best campaign in team history, Halbgewachs, an overage right-winger who has spent his entire WHL playing career in Moose Jaw, said the wins haven’t come easy. As the Warriors pile up accolades, Halbgewachs has noticed foes play his side that much harder. He said his team claimed a hard battle on Friday downing the Memorial Cup hosting Pats in Regina 5-3 and had to find a way to outlast the Blades on Sunday.
    “Obviously, everyone wants to take off the top team,” said Halbgewachs. “Each and every night teams are going to want to come in to play us, and they want beat us every time we play them.
    “They are going to play tough against us. We have to bring our game every night and find ways to win, even if we are not having a hot night like tonight. We had a pretty good game in Regina (on Friday).
Jayden Halbgewachs has 51 goals so far this season for the Warriors.
    “Tonight was just an average game for us in which we need to find a way to play our best game every game.”
    The Warriors had a strong campaign last season posting a 42-21-8-1 record in the regular season before falling in a first round playoff series to the Swift Current Broncos in a series deciding seventh game.
    This season, the Warriors have become the team everyone wants to knock off, and they have been forced to stay honest playing in what has become an extra tough East Division.
    The Blades fell to 23-22-2-1 with their loss on Sunday, but Burke said the Saskatoon side hasn’t been an easy out. The two teams have met four times, and the Warriors have come away with three victories including one win in overtime.
Brayden Burke scored the winner for the Warriors.
    “They (the Blades) are a good team,” said Burke. “They work hard.
    “They shoot the puck well. They forecheck well. They have a good system.
    “Even though they are a little lower in the standings, we know they are a good team. If you look at the East Division, there is not a bad team. Every time we come against a team in the East Division, we have to be at our best, if we want to win, and today was no different.”
    The Warriors jumped ahead 1-0 just 1:48 into Sunday’s clash, when captain Brett Howden tapped home a nice backdoor feed form Halbgewachs. Sophomore left-winger Brecon Woods slipped home an off-speed shot at the 11:42 mark of the opening frame to give the Warriors a 2-0 edge.
    Josh Paterson, who was celebrating his 19th birthday on Sunday, scored for the Blades with 15.4 seconds to play in the first to cut Moose Jaw’s lead to 2-1.
    Just 51 seconds into the second period, Warriors centre Justin Almeida converted a beauty tick-tack-toe passing play from Burke and Howden to put the Warriors up 3-1.
    The Blades, who look lethargic to that point after beating Pats 4-3 in overtime at the SaskTel Centre on Saturday night, came to life on Sunday after the Warriors took their two-goal edge.
Josh Paterson scored twice in the Blades attempted comeback.
    While Moose Jaw continued to have a decent advantage as far as shots on goal were concerned, the Blades were stringing a number of good shifts together and spending lengthy stretches of time in the Moose Jaw zone.
    The host side’s pressure finally resulted in Paterson’s second goal of the contest and an equalizer from left-winger Eric Florchuk early in the third to force a 3-3 tie.
    That set the stage for Burke’s winner and Halbgewachs’ empty-net goal down the stretch.
    “I kind of went to the net and just wacked it there,” said Burke about his winning tally. “It was maybe a little bit of luck to get in there, but I am happy with the goal and happy with the win.”
    Maier turned away 31 of 35 shots to take the setback in goal for the Blades.
The Warriors celebrate their victory over the Blades.
    Saskatoon sits in the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a four point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (18-20-7-2). The Raiders have a game in hand on the Blades.
    The Blades are four points behind the Pats (24-20-5) for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand.
    Brody Willms stopped 16 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Warriors.
    During the rough patches, Halbgewachs was pleased to see his side never got flustered.
    “Throughout the game, we were just kind of even keel,” said Halbgewachs. “We weren’t really too hot. We weren’t too low.
    “We just kind of rolled through the game. I think we could have played a lot better, but obviously, we got enough chances to win the game. That is the way the game went tonight.”
    The Blades return to action Wednesday, when they travel to Regina to face the Pats. The Warriors are off until this coming Friday, when they travel to Lethbridge to take on the Hurricanes.

Fundraiser underway to have Lazaruk sing national anthem

Blades play-by-play voice Les Lazaruk is participating in a fundraiser.
    A fundraiser is underway to get Les Lazaruk to sing the national anthem before a Saskatoon Blades home game.
    Lazaruk became the Blades play-by-play radio voice at the start of the 1994-95 WHL campaign and he has called 1,794 of their games. If $1,500 is raised, Lazaruk will sing the national anthem before a Blades home game. As of Sunday night, $425 has been raised.
    Lazaruk agreed to this fundraiser as long as the money went to a charity of his choice. He has decided the funds raised will be donated to the Saskatchewan Red Cross to support Pink Day, which is set for February 28.
    Every $20 that is raised will provide a pink shirt to a local child and get them into the Red Cross Pink Day program supporting anti-bullying.
    Those that want to donate to the campaign to get Lazaruk to sing the national anthem can do so by clicking here.

Parker lifts Stars to OT victory with milestone goal

Mackenna Parker achieved another impressive SFMAAAHL milestone.
    Captain Mackenna Parker hit another impressive milestone with the Saskatoon Stars.
    On Sunday at the Agriplace Arena, Parker had two goals - including the winner 22 seconds into overtime - and an assist to lift the Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Notre Dame Hounds. With those two tallies, the skilled centre has scored 74 regular season goals in her career with the Stars to move into a tie with Alyssa Wiebe for second on the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s all-time career goals list.
    Wiebe, who is a Saskatoon product, piled up her 74 career goals along with 68 assists for 142 points in 55 career regular season games playing for the Hounds in the SFMAAAHL’s first two seasons of existence from 2006 to 2008. Parker, who is in her fourth season with the Stars, piled up her 74 goals to go along with 72 assists for 146 points in 99 career regular season games.
    Earlier this season, Parker passed Wiebe to sit alone as the second all-time regular season leading scorer in the SFMAAAHL.
    In Sunday’s game, Parker drew an assist on Anna Leschyshyn’s goal 60 seconds into the contest to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Parker netted her first of the night at the 2:07 mark of the second period to give the Stars a 2-0 lead.
Mackenna Parker leads the SFMAAAHL in scoring with 48 points.
    The Hounds pulled even at 2-2 before the second period ended with short-handed goals coming from the sticks of Portia Eldaun and Lyddi Robart.
    That set the stage for Parker, who played for Canada at the under-18 women’s worlds earlier this month in Dmitrov, Russia, to score her dramatic overtime winner. In 18 regular season games this season with the Stars, the 17-year-old has career highs in goals (25) and assists (23) and leads the SFMAAAHL in scoring with her 48 points.
    Jordan Ivanco turned away 13 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Stars (19-3-1). Kaitlyn Ross turned away 42 shots to take the setback in goal for the Hounds (14-6-1).
    The Stars have collected 55 points in the SFMAAAHL standings coming off 16 regulation victories, three overtime wins and an overtime loss to sit one point back of the Prince Albert Northern Bears (19-3) for first place. The Bears have 56 points in the standings coming from 18 regulation wins and an overtime win. 
    The SFMAAAHL awards three standings points for regulation victories, two points for extra time wins and one point for extra time losses.
    The Bears have a game in hand on the Stars.
    The Stars, who have won five straight contests, return to action on February 8, when they host the Battlefords Sharks at 7:15 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

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