As in the kind of contest where a team with a lesser record and desperate for a win turns in a superlative performance against a crew higher than them in the standings expecting an easy touch of it. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened when the two teams took the ice at Mosaic Place on Wednesday night.
The Raiders took it to the Warriors from the opening face-off, disrupting passes, blocking shots and preventing any extended offensive zone time on their way to a 3-2 victory. The win was the first of the season for Prince Albert, who had lost their previous four contests..
“We talked about that at practice yesterday and again today, that it had all the makings of a trap game and it’s human nature to look at the records of two teams even though it’s early on,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary.
“We tip-toed our way into this game and you can’t do that against anybody. We know what P.A. is about, they’re organized, they’re prepared and they check real well and they have guys who can put the puck in the net. So that’s a recipe for a win, and it doesn’t matter if you’re 0-and-4 or whatever the records are.”
What made things even more difficult to stomach was how far the Warriors got away from the gameplan that had made them successful in their first three games -- a steady, solid attack and relentless pressure regardless of how the contest was playing out..
“Right from the first shift they set the tone with their physicality and from there on they got better and better and we didn’t,” O’Leary said. “I just don’t think we were sharp and alert. When we’re playing well we’re attacking with and without the puck and this game we were slow to react. We didn’t win races to the puck and we certainly didn’t win battles for the puck. That can change because I’ve seen us play when it’s much different. So we’ll look forward to practice tomorrow and shore things up for Friday.”
Ozzy Weisblatt, Reece Vitelli and Niall Crocker all scored for Prince Albert in the second period and it looked for all the world that Raiders netminder Carter Serhyenko was destined for a shut-out on the road -- especially after the visitors killed off a lengthy 5-on-3 midway through the third period without Moose Jaw generating any real pressure.
But a Sloan Stadnick major penalty for goaltender interference on Warriors starter Carl Tetachuck with just over four minutes to play changed things in a hurry.
Daemon Hunt got the Warriors on the board with a seeing-eyed shot from the point with 4:07 remaining in the game and Denton Mateychuk got the Warriors within one with 1:09 to play. The Warriors then had a host of chances to tie the game, but Vitelli made one final shot block as time ran down to preserve the one-goal victory.
O’Leary pointed to the late comeback as a sign of what can happen if the puck is just put on net.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the power play or not, just getting the shot through is all it takes and I think we passed up shooting opportunities early on thinking we were going to get lots of looks,” he said. “But at the end of the day it might be the biggest moment of the game when it’s on your stick, so we just need to do more to get pucks there.”
Serhyenko made 20 saves to earn the win, Tetachuk had 23 stops in taking the loss. Ryder Korczak added two assists, Hunt also had a helper.
The two teams will be right back at it on Friday night, as the Warriors travel to Prince Albert.
Next home action for Moose Jaw comes Saturday when they host the Saskatoon Blades. Puck drop is 7 p.m. and fans are reminded to have a proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test from within 72 hours for entrance into the game.