For the second time this season, the Warriors overcame a 3-0 deficit to Regina, scoring three times in the final eight minutes to send things into overtime before Jagger Firkus scored the shootout winner to give Moose Jaw a 4-3 victory.
The Warriors improved to 6-6-1-0 with the win, one that was once again born of steady pressure until they found a way to break through.
“I really liked our game, I thought we started the game well, got to our game pretty quick and just weren’t able to score early on,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary. “I think the big challenge tonight was trying to stick with it and not try and cheat because the offence wasn’t coming. Credit to our group, they’re a resilient bunch, they don’t quit and that’s something to be real proud of.”
That kind of resiliency isn’t something that’s all that teachable, either — as O’Leary says, it’s simply the attitude of the players and their decisions once they fall behind or face adversity that makes the difference.
“I keep talking about our group, the skill level that our young players have, but what gets me really excited is they’re good people, they were brought up the right way and the character of them gets you more excited,” O’Leary said.
“At the end of the day, bad things are going to happen, things aren’t going to go your way but it’s always about what you do next and I think this group has had that ‘what’s next’ mentality from the get-go here, they dust themselves off and get up fast. That’s from the players and that’s coming from within.”
After the Warriors were stopped at every opportunity in the first two periods, Kade Runke finally broke through with 7:26 remaining in the game, finishing off a scramble in front of the net and banking shot off Pats goaltender Matthew Kieper’s skate and in.
Josh Hoekstra made it 3-2 only 23 seconds later, scoring the first of his WHL career with a lazer beam of a shot from the slot over Kieper’s blocker top corner. The goal came off neutral zone turnover forced by Bryden Keisman and was another example of solid play by the team’s fourth line.
“I couldn’t be more excited for that fourth line to get on the board with a couple,” O’Leary said “We’ve seen the last few games, they’ve been our most consistent line in terms of playing to their identity and earning trust from the coaching staff and more responsibility. For Josh and Kade to score two real big goals there, get us off the schneid and rolling a little bit was just awesome. They don’t complain, they work hard and do their job and I couldn’t be more happy for those two and Bryden on that fourth line.”
Eric Alarie completed the comeback with 17 seconds left, finding the puck at the side of the net with goaltender Brett Mirwald pulled for the extra attacker and lifting a backhand over a sprawling Kieper.
It took a bad bounce for the Pats to score the game’s first goal with 5:17 to play in the second period, as a Parker Berghe’s shot from the point deflected off Denton Mateychuk’s stick in front and past Mirwald.
Only 34 seconds later, Layton Feist would make it 2-0, taking a shot from the point that evaded a ton of traffic out front and found to the top corner.
Ryker Evans then made it 3-0 5:01 into the third, finishing off a three-on-two break.
While things turned out well in the end, you can count Firkus among the players who would like to see things not get to the point where comebacks are needed.
“We just have to get off the start and be ready to play, we can’t leave our goalie out to hang like that we’ll have to be better next game,” he said. “And just be ready to go from the drop of the puck, forecheck hard on them. I believe we’re the better team, so if we play our game right from the start I’m sure will be fine.”
Mirwald made 29 saves to earn the win, Kieper had 36 stops for the Pats.
The Warriors are back in action Wednesday when they host the Winnipeg Ice. Game time is 4 p.m.