Friday night in Swift Current, the young squad was able to finally put it all together.
And with that, a seven-game losing streak came to an end as the Warriors picked up a 5-3 win over the Broncos.
“I think it’s a big confidence boost for our guys, we’ve had good looks as of late but we were due for a game like tonight where if we played the right way and played honest and hard,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary. “Sure, we got a couple of bounces tonight, but we deserved everything we got.”
The contest was a counter-point to almost everything that has dogged the Warriors as of late.
The Warriors scored three first period goals, with Martin Lang getting the Tribe on the board 6:44 into the contest, Owen Hardy extending the lead to 2-0 five minutes later and Cayde Augustine potting their third goal with 4:38 remaining in the period.
Former Warriors defenceman Matthew Benson got one back for Swift Current midway through the second, but Moose Jaw outshot the Broncos in both the first two periods, 18-16 in the first and 14-10 in the second.
More balanced offence?
Augustine’s goal was the veteran defenceman’s second of the season, but it was their other two goal scorers who drew special plaudits from O’Leary.
Jagger Firkus -- the Warriors first-round pick in the 2019 Bantam Draft -- scored the first goal of his WHL career in impressive fashion with four minutes to play in the period. The 15-year-old Irma, Alta. product managed to outduel Broncos defenceman Alex Moar in front of the goal and just tip the puck home while getting knocked to the ice.
Then, with a minute left in the second, Moose Jaw Minor Hockey product Atley Calvert also scored his first goal in the WHL, finding the puck at the side of the net during a scramble and lifting a quick little shot over Broncos goaltender Isaac Poulter.
“It gives us a glimpse into the future, they bring different elements to our game, too,” O’Leary said. “Atley Calvert is just blood, sweat and tears, he drew a penalty for us and was rewarded by going to the net and scoring a big goal. That’s what he’s going to do, he has really good hands and he worked hard all over the ice.
“And then Firkus really showed his skill tonight, he was making some really nice plays with his linemates and had a really nice tip on the goal. He’s a player with a lot of skill and it’s nice to see.”
Swift Current’s Kaleb Bulych scored the game’s final goal with 55 seconds to play.
Boston Bilous was in goal for the win and was slightly less busy than usual, turning aside 40 shots on the night. The Warriors fired 45 at Poulter.
The key now will be to replicate that level of performance in Saturday night’s rematch and going forward through the remainder of the season.
“I think tonight, to a man, we skated and worked as hard as we’ve done all year,” O’Leary said. “Right from our forwards making sure they’re on the right side of the puck to our ‘D’ making sure they were right on top of Swift Current and our goaltender made saves when he had to. So it was one of those games where you felt good about everyone being involved and part of the win.
“But complacency can’t set in, that’s for sure,” he added. “We’re not in any position to feel comfortable. If anything, a win here is juts proof that the process does work if we stick to it. We’ll enjoy the heck out of it tonight and tomorrow we’ll reset and get back at ‘er.”
The Warriors improved to 12-28-2-0 with their first win since their shut-out victory over Red Deer on Jan. 4. They now sit four points ahead of last place Swift Current, five back of Regina and 23 points out of the final Eastern Conference wild card spot.
The Warriors are back in action Saturday when they host the Broncos at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place before closing out their three-games-in-three-nights run on Sunday when they travel to Winnipeg to face the Ice.