Heading into the Moose Jaw Warriors’ home-and-home series with the Swift Current Broncos this past weekend, team captain Denton Mateychuk found himself in a strange situation.
The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect hadn’t put a point on the board the previous six games, something that hadn’t happened in the entirety of his WHL career -- even dating back to his rookie season in the Regina Hub.
Two games later, problem solved.
After picking up an assist in their 4-3 shootout win in Swift Current on Friday night, Mateychuk put up two goals and four points as the Warriors rolled to a 7-3 victory Sunday afternoon at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
“It’s good for your confidence and it’s nice to contribute that way,” said Mateychuk, who was still his solid defensive self despite not putting up points. “I’m just trying to contribute any way I can and it’s always nice when I can do that on the scoresheet.”
The win saw the Warriors improve to 38-22-0-3 and move seven points clear of Lethbridge in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and with the Hurricanes having six games left on their schedule, odds are high that Moose Jaw will end up with home ice advantage.
The Warriors officially clinched a spot in the post-season in Friday’s win, and naturally focus has quickly turned to the playoffs and what lies ahead.
“It was a good weekend, we had a clinching scenario and the playoffs are right around the corner, so I think we’re ready for that,” Mateychuk said. “The first period in Swift Current didn’t go our way, but to battle back like we did is huge going into the playoffs. Then we had the big win here today, it was an awesome weekend.”
The Warriors didn’t register their first shot until six minutes were gone in the first period, but when they did finally put one on net, the flow of the game changed in their favour.
And a minute later, Logan Dowhaniuk would open the scoring. MMateychuk’s assist set up the play, as he gloved down a clearing attempt at the blueline, spun away from a defender and found Dowhaniuk at the point, with his shot beating a screened Reid Dyck.
Some good puck movement in the Broncos’ zone led to the Warriors’ second goal, with Martin Rysavy finding Jagger Firkus for the one-timer from the top of the crease during a goalmouth scramble with 7:37 to play in the period.
Penalty trouble caught up with Swift Current late in the frame as Josh Filmon took a cross-checking minor and 12 seconds later Drew Englot took a double minor for high-sticking Brayden Yager.
The Warriors would take advantage of the lengthy two-man power play, with Mateychuk finding room in the high slot to beat Dyck glove side for Moose Jaw’s third goal at 16:22.
Swift Current got one back before the period was out, with Mathew Ward scoring with a minute remaining on a four-on-four. The game was paused for several minutes afterwards as officials reviewed a high stick that took FIrkus out of the play, but the goal would stand.
Moose Jaw got that one back 3:05 into the second, and it was an interesting one. Side-by-side big hits on a pair of Broncos in the high slot sprung Tate Schofer into the open, and he’d make no mistake with a perfect shot blocker side to make it 4-1.
Sam McGinley got Swift Current back within a pair 30 seconds later on a wrap-around and three minutes later Ward outduelled a defender in front to tip the puck top corner and make it a one-goal game.
Five minutes later, a two-on-one from the blueline between Eric Alarie and Ryder Korczak led to the New York Rangers prospect blasting a one-timer top-shelf blocker side and a 5-3 Moose Jaw lead.
That marked the end of the night for Dyck, who gave way to Joey Rocha after allowing five goals on 11 shots in 30:07.
Yager -- now sporting a facemask due to the high-sticking injury -- increased the Warriors’ lead to 6-3 with three minutes to play in the second, breaking down his wing shorthanded and beating Rocha with a shot top shelf.
Seeing his crew respond to whatever Swift Current threw at them was heartening for the Warriors’ captain, especially when the Broncos closed to within a single goal.
“It was really important, Jackson (Unger) played a great game and they pushed in the second period but we were able to answer them,” Mateychuk said. “We gave up a couple of chances that you need to lock down when you’re playing a team like Lethbridge or whoever we play in the playoffs, so this will be something we can learn from and build into the playoffs.
A nasty check-to-the-head by Caleb Wyrostock to Warriors defenceman Sam Borschowa, the subsequent fight and Wyrostok throwing his helmet into the Warriors bench led to the Broncos forward receiving three major penalties and two game misconducts, putting Moose Jaw on the power play for the majority of the remainder of the game.
Mateychuk would score his second goal and fourth point of the game with 2:04 to play to make it a 7-3 Warriors lead and wrap up scoring on the afternoon.
Unger finished with 28 saves in the win, Rocha made 11 stops in his 29:53 of work.
The Warriors are back in action in a home-and-home with Regina this weekend, with the two teams in Regina on Friday night and at the Moose Jaw Events Centre Saturday. The return match is sold out, with over 4,000 fans expected in the building.
Puck drop is 7 p.m.