Night after night, chance after chance with little to show for it. A goal here and there out of the blue, but little regular and sustained pressure compared to the opposition. And an inability to close out games with any kind of regularity.
Such was the case on Saturday night during the Warriors’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Mosaic Place, and it led to the Regina Pats skating away with a 4-2 victory in Western Hockey League action.
The loss marked back-to-back losses for the Warriors against teams trailing them in the standings after a 4-2 loss in Brandon on Friday night.
“There were a lot of similarities between last night and tonight, I think we certainly generated enough opportunities to win the hockey game, and that’s step one,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary. “I like our compete a little bit better last night in Brandon, I thought Regina was the better team in net-front battles and battles along the boards, we need to be a little bit hungrier for those second opportunities.”
Getting to that point is a matter of continuing to press the message.
“We continue to preach what’s important to us, and I still like our effort, that’s always there, but it’s just learning when to really dig in in those big moments,” O’Leary said. “We’re just a little bit hesitant sometimes and we don’t do it until we absolutely have to, and sometimes it’s too late.”
One thing that had been in the Warriors’ favour as of late was their start to games.
Not on Saturday, as the Pats hit the board only 57 seconds into the contest when Logan Nihoff was left unchecked down low, took a Tanner Howe pass that deflected off a Warrior defender behind the net, and used the easy tap in for the quick 1-0 lead.
Regina’s Connor Bedard did his thing on Regina’s second goal. The 16-year-old phenom stickhandled a Warriors defenceman into the ice and got a shot off on Carl Tetachuk that was stopped, but Borys Valis was johnny-on-the-spot for the rebound and he made no mistake, putting Regina ahead by two with 3:38 to play.
The Warriors turned up the pressure midway through the second period and were rewarded after a flurry of chances when Martin Rysavy and Logan Doust broke in on a two-on-one. Rysavy hit Doust with a perfect cross-crease pass and the 20-year-old would make no mistake, going top shelf glove side on Matthew Kieper for his first goal of the season.
The Warriors tied things up 2:22 into the third period, and Brayden Yager did all the hard work, forcing a turnover at the blueline and going in two-on-one with Eric Alarie, keeping, and ripping a shot from the faceoff circle top corner.
The goal was Yager’s team-leading 10th of the season.
The Warriors could have had two or three more out of the opportunities they created in that span, but true to form -- and thanks to a solid showing from Kieper -- it was nothing doing.
“It’s not a matter of lack of trying,” O’Leary said. “I think we’re looking to be a little too cute at times, we miss a lot of nets and hit a lot of posts and I think that comes from hesitation instead of just smashing the puck into the back of the net. Less flicking pucks, more smashing pucks.”
The tie didn’t last long, as Regina made the most of their third power play of the game when Howe scored five minutes later, with his shot from the point through traffic finding the back of the net.
The Pats put the clamps down from there, keeping the Warriors from generating any zone time, and Cole Carrier scored an empty-netter with 1:29 to play to close out scoring.
Tetachuk turned aside 32 shots in taking the loss, the Warriors had 44 shots on Kieper.
Regina improved to 7-10-0-0 with the win.
The Warriors are back in action Wednesday in Prince Albert, with their next home action on Saturday when they host Swift Current. Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.
Overtime. . . Be sure to check back Sunday for a closer look at all the activity from the Warriors’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night.