Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jagger Firkus hasn’t had many helpless moments as a member of the team, but last weekend was one of them.
The Seattle Kraken prospect could only sit and watch from afar as his Western Hockey League club absorbed a pair of losses on opening weekend, including a lopsided 9-4 defeat at the hands of the Brandon Wheat Kings in their home opener a week ago.
Now, Firkus is back, as will be Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Brayden Yager. And that has the Warriors looking for a far different result when the two teams match up again on Friday night
“I think last weekend wasn’t how we wanted to start off, but I think moving forward we’re getting guys back here now and starting to see our full team come together,” said Firkus, who had a goal and three points in his return to the WHL in a 4-2 win over Regina Wednesday. “We’ll get back on the ice together tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes against them this time.”
Veteran defenceman Lucas Brenton was of much the same mindset, especially having been a part of the most lopsided home opener loss in recent history.
“We didn’t put on our best performance there and we really want to show what kind of team we have here,” Brenton said after practice on Thursday afternoon. “We’re not a team where you can come in and think you can do whatever you want and it’s a point night. We want to show we’re a top team and that we can compete with everyone in this league and win a championship.”
Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary said after the loss to the Wheat Kings that there would be accountability in practice this past week, and that was the case as the Warriors prepared for Regina and this weekend’s games.
“Lears had us battling in practice after and that set the tone for us,” Brenton said. “It showed that we have to work and no one is going to win the games except us. He kind of emphasized that, and we went out there and worked in practice, took that into the game and it went well.”
Getting that first win certainly helped with the team’s confidence.
“We didn’t start (the season) off great and all that matters is how we respond and we responded last night,” Brenton said. “Now we want to build that up and do what we can to win Friday.”
A key part in that direction will be how the team plays without the puck. Needless to say, things were a touch suspect the last time Brandon was in town, but Brenton -- the team’s defacto defensive leader with captain Denton Mateychuk still in NHL camp with Columbus -- has already seen improvement in the time since.
“We didn’t put in our best performance defensively there, and even though we have a young group back there, we’re coming together well,” he said. “We have some good players back there with some guys who can defend and move the puck well, so once we all come together I think we’ll have a solid six or seven guys.”
All in all, the Warriors are aiming for wholesale improvement, and Firkus is confident they’ll see it.
“I think we have to show them that’s not our team, that’s not how we compete and it’s a different team going into tomorrow night’s game than it was last Friday,” he said. “It’s a very important game to show Brandon we’re a good team and not what we were last weekend.”
Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.