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Warriors hang on for win over Pats in home opener

Tribe build 4-0 lead before furious Regina comeback in final five minutes sees game end 5-3
If the first two games of the Western Hockey League regular season are any indication, the Moose Jaw Warriors are going to be giving fans some interesting hockey to watch going forward.

One night after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Regina Pats in their season opener, the Warriors scored a pair of goals in each of the first and second periods on their way to 5-3 victory in their home opener at Mosaic Place.

Thing is, it could have been far more comfortable – the Tribe led 4-0 with 4:58 to play, only to see the Pats score three goals in a span of 3:53 to make things rather stressful in the final minute of the game.

“Teams are going to make a push, I wouldn’t have suspected we were going to beat Regina 5-0,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter. “They have some quality players over there and it’s a matter of bending and not breaking and we did just that… our guys stood tall, Bailey (Brkin) made some saves, they’ve got a little more firepower as an older team than we do so we had to keep sticking to the details and the way we play defence.”

Bailey Brkin turned in his second outstanding start for the Tribe, carrying his shutout into the final five minutes despite facing nearly 40 shots over that time. As it turns out, that’s all matter of course for the overage netminder given his past experience.

“Honestly, when I was 17 I was playing Junior A for the Calgary Mustangs and I was facing an average of 45 shots a night there, then even in Midget I was getting 50 shots a night,” Brkin said. “So it’s not like I haven’t grown accustomed to lots of shots, so I know how to play in games like this. Sometimes I even prefer more shots and I’m comfortable in those situations.”

The Warriors opened scoring 7:42 into the first period, with Carson Denomie taking advantage of Regina’s eighth-straight penalty between the two games to beat Pats netminder Max Paddock with a shot from the top of the left circle.

The Pats would extend their penalty streak to 11 straight before a Cory King interference minor at the 6:58 mark of the second gave the Pats their first power play since the first period of Friday’s game.

Ryder Korczak made it 2-0 only 1:06 after Denomie’s marker, taking a feed from Eric Alarie out of the corner and putting a quick shot home. He’d finish the contest with a goal and two assists in his first regular-season home game in a Warriors uniform while also winning 11 of his 13 faceoffs.

“It was an awesome game, the fans were great, the atmosphere was good and I couldn’t have asked for a better game,” Korczak said. “We wanted to start off a little better, be hard on pucks and it paid off for us.”

Tate Popple scored his first of the season midway through the second before Keenan Taphorn made it 4-0, beating his man to the net and taking a feed from Alarie to go in alone on Paddock and score five-hole with less than a second left in the period.

There the score would remain until Regina’s Sloan Stanick snapped the shut-out bid with 4:58 remaining in the contest. Riley Krane added the Pats second marker 36 seconds later to make it 4-2 and Robbie Holmes scored 2:43 after that to pull the Pats within one.

Denomie would add an empty netter with seven seconds remaining to close out scoring.

Brkin would finish the game with 43 saves while Paddock turned aside 26.
The Warriors were 1-for-5 on the power play, the Pats 0-for-2.

Next action for the Warriors will be Friday night in Brandon to kick off a home-and-home with the Wheat Kings. The return match will go Saturday at Mosaic Place, with game time at 7 p.m.

Overtime… Denomie’s three goals see him tied for the league lead in goals scored, while Daemon Hunt’s three assists have him tied for second in helpers... The 50-50 draw for the night started at just over $20,000 and ended up at $60,946, giving the lucky winner a take-home of $30,473.