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Warriors fall to Brandon as pre-season continues

Odd-man rushes, defensive breakdowns the difference in 5-2 loss at Mosaic Place
If it was the middle of the Western Hockey League season and the Moose Jaw Warriors were still giving up too many odd-man rushes and seeing untimely defensive breakdowns, it might be a cause for concern.

But, once again, this is the pre-season we’re talking about, where a 5-2 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night isn’t as important as the takeaways from everything that happened on the ice.

Sure, the win would be nice. But if a young defenceman or rookie forward learns from a turnover that ends up in the back of their net and prevents the same from happening a month from now, well, that’s what this time of the year is all about.

“That’s why we play all these exhibition games, to try and get all those kinks out,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter. “You don’t get all the reads you want to emphasize in a practice and we have some veteran defencemen who made some poor reads and we’ll work on that next week.

That second period wasn’t great, but I liked a lot of things we did on a whole… it’s all stuff we we can work on.”

Warriors veteran forward Tate Popple finished the contest with a goal and an assist and noticed many of the same issues his coach did as the game played out.

“I think it was a combination of things, we got a little sloppy and gave up a number of odd man rushes and they’re going to score when you give them those chances,” Popple said. “So that was the difference there… That was a little bit better than the other games, at least we gave a bit more pushback and that’s something we can build on. Our veteran group here, we just have to pull up our socks and get something going for the last pre-season game.”

Brandon took a 1-0 lead out of the first period on a goal from Braden Schneider before Wheat Kings rookie Ridly Greig went on a tear in the second period, scoring twice and adding an assist to finish with four points on the night.

Popple scored the Warriors’ first goal trailing 3-0 with 4:04 remaining in the second period, with his redirection of a Matthew Benson shot eluding Brandon goaltender Ethan Kruger.

Cade Hayes picked up his second of the pre-season with 1:41 gone in the third to pull the Warriors within a pair, but Lyndon McCallum would get that one back for Brandon at 12:22 to close out scoring.

While the Tribe would like to see a little more offensive production, Hunter wasn’t overly concerned given the constant line-mixing and shuffling that has taken place through the exhibition schedule.

“We had some scoring chances and we didn’t finish, and that’s part and parcel of not having set any lines, we’re giving guys opportunities to see if they can play and the chemistry isn’t there as well,” Hunter said. “I’m not looking for the goals just yet, I’m looking for guys who can step up and show us they can play in this league and show promise that they can play in this league.”

Jackson Berry turned aside 20 shots in the Warriors net, while Kruger had 23 saves for Brandon.

Moose Jaw finished 0-for-5 on the power play, Brandon was 1-for-2.

The two teams are back in action Saturday in Brandon to close out the pre-season schedule.