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Warriors look to regain stride in Game 3

Tribe top line looking to find offensive touch as series reverts to Moose Jaw for next two contests

If the Moose Jaw Warriors ever wanted to see what pure, unadulterated bad luck looks like in hockey, Games 1 and 2 of the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference quarter-final gave them a pretty good idea.

As an example, all three of the Saskatoon Blades’ goals in Game 2 had some element of unusual attached to them – Max Gerlach’s first goal came on a bad line change that saw the Blades go in on a three-on-oh break. Their second goal saw Gerlach pick up a shot off the back boards and bank a shot home on a play that normally would go harmlessly into the corner.

Even the empty net goal that clinched the contest had its share of weirdness involved as Kirby Dach appeared to dive on incidental contact by Jett Woo before being awarded the goal after the fact.

It all has head coach Tim Hunter and his charges in a far better frame of mind down two games than many other teams in the same situation.

“We’re close, it’s just a matter of us not having played our game to the best of our abilities yet,” Hunter said. “We got better last night but we’re still just a bit short… We know where we’ve gone wrong in the games and where we should improve, so it’s a matter of getting back to where we need to be and play our game, which we haven’t done to this point.”

A major issue has been the lack of production from the team’s top line, one of the most dynamic in team history as Tristin Langan (53-60-113) and Justin Almeida (33-78-111) finished second and third in league scoring with rookie Brayden Tracey (36-25-81) 16th in scoring.

Tracey is battling a lingering injury and missed the first two games, and that, combined with the Blades’ solid checking game has seen Langan with only two assists and Almeida without a point despite many chances.

“When you remove one of the best players on the line, they’re all different in their own ways but they’re all great players and that’s been a bit of a struggle for those guys,” Hunter said. “We’ve tried to find a fit there, it hasn’t been great, but minus Tracey, I know Justin and Tristin know they can play better as well.

“At the same time, you’re not going to get your best players scoring every night, you need secondary scoring, we got a little bit of that so far but we could use a little bit more. And I’m sure Justin and Tristin will have good games Tuesday night in Moose Jaw.”

Game 3 of the series goes Tuesday and Game 4 Wednesday at Mosaic Place. Game times are 7 p.m.

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