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Warriors rally from three-goal deficit, go on to shootout win over Medicine Hat

Tigers score three goals in 2:48 early in first period to take 3-0 lead, Warriors dominate remainder of game before pulling off 6-5 win
Moose Jaw Warriors captain Denton Mateychuk celebrates one of his three goals on the night against Medicine Hat.

The Moose Jaw Warriors just keep finding ways to win, even in games where it looks like they might be in for a long night in the early going.

The Warriors surrendered three goals to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the span of 2:48 early in the first period but went on to dominate the vast majority of the game, eventually tying things up late in the third before going on to a 6-5 win in a shootout at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

Moose Jaw improved to 28-15-0-2 on the campaign and have closed within two points of the Tigers for second place in the Eastern Conference, with an opportunity to move into a tie coming when the two teams rematch in Medicine Hat on Saturday night.

The Warriors also continued their run as one of the hottest teams in the Western Hockey League with wins in 10 of their last 11 and six straight victories.

“They’re a pretty opportunistic team and we kind of gifted them that lead in the first period, but our play didn’t show that we should have been down,” said Warriors captain Denton Mateychuk, who would finish the game with a hat trick, including what appeared to be the game-winner with 22 seconds remaining. 

“We played hard for 60 minutes and there were just some mistakes that we know we can clean up. There are going to be nights where things like that happen, you just have to be ready to respond and bounce back and I thought we did a great job of that tonight.”

And how.

The Warriors carried play much of the first five minutes, with the best chance in that span going to Lynden Lakovic. The rookie forward picked up the puck at the top of the crease and had the open net to shoot at, only for Zach Zahara to make a diving save with paddle of his stick.

Almost immediately after that chance, the Tigers went on their run.

Gavin McKenna got things started, breaking down his wing and putting a shot top shelf blocker side. Just over a minute later it was 2-0 when Hayden Harsanyi finished off a two-on-one break with Vasil Silka, and the Tigers then made it three goals in just under three minutes after a defensive zone turnover created another two-on-one for McKenna’s second of the period.

Jagger Firkus got one back for the Warriors at the 8:58 mark, finishing off a run of sustained pressure by taking a short feed from Pavel McKenzie, going to the top of the crease and putting a shot top shelf glove side.

The Warriors kept firing, and their 18th shot of the period led to their second goal.

Mateychuk picked up a loose puck in the left face-off circle and ripped a perfect shot top shelf glove side with 2:53 to play in the period.

All told, the Warriors would outshoot the Tigers 29-12 in the frame for their highest single-period shot total this season.

Neither team scored in the second, but Medicine Hat picked up what would be an all-important insurance marker with 8:11 gone in the third, when a turnover in the Warriors zone led to Nate Corbet getting a shot off from the point that Dru Krebs was able to tip home.

Mateychuk then scored his second of the game with 7:52 to play, taking a pass from Atley Calvert in the high slot and putting a shot top shelf glove side.

Moose Jaw kept pressing, and the hockey gods rewarded Lakovic for their earlier sleight. Calvert carried the puck out from behind the net and sent a pass cross-crease, right to a wide-open Lakovic at the side of the goal, and he’d slam the puck home to tie the game with 3:30 left in regulation.

Mateychuk then appeared to have the game won with 32 seconds to play when he walked in off the point and put a shot home low glove side, but the Tigers’ Shane Smith would come right back and find the tying goal with Zahara pulled and 14 seconds left on the clock to send things to overtime.

Seeing his team come all the way back and get a last-minute goal for the near outright win was naturally heartening for Mateychuk, who has seen his crew pull off comeback victories in two of their last three outings.

“It’s great to see,” he said. “We’re never out of games, no matter what happens, and we just keep finding a way to get things done.”

Calvert had the two best chances in the extra frame, going in on a pair of breakaways, but Zahara came up with the stop each time.

The shootout saw a single goal scored, that off a nifty stickhandling display by Matthew Savoie, and three straight saves by Jackson Unger would give the Warriors their 6-5 win.

Unger turned aside 23 shots to earn the win, while Moose Jaw fired 55 shots at Zahara.

After their meeting in Medicine Hat on Saturday, the Warriors return home to face the Prince Albert Raiders on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

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