They’re going to be a very interesting team to watch.
One just has to look at their two games this past weekend for an example of that: coming off an impressive 5-0 win over Brandon on Friday, the Warriors rallied with two goals in the third period – including the game-winner with 44 seconds left – to take a 3-2 win over the Wheat Kings on Saturday night at Mosaic Place.
Ryder Korczak continued his impressive start to the season with a three-point night, including the game-winning goal. The just-turned 17-year-old Yorkton product drove to the net as linemate Carson Denomie carried the puck into the left corner, picked up a perfect pass in the slot and slid a shot home through Ethan Kruger’s five-hole to give the Warriors their first lead of the game.
“He was giving up rebounds, so we were trying to get to the net because that’s where we’re going to get our goals,” Korczak said of his strategy on the play. “You can’t score from the outside, so if you go to the net you’re going to get goals.”
Korczak also drew assists on Jadon Joseph’s second-period marker and Keenan Taphorn’s game-tying goal earlier in the period, giving him two goals, seven assists and nine points on the season. The significance? As of Saturday night, Ryder Korczak is the leading scorer in the Western Hockey League. He also needs only six more points to match his total over 50 games with Calgary last season.
“I watched him closely in the Calgary Lethbridge series last year and I thought he was trending up,” Warriors head coach Tim Hunter said. “He had a really good series and the rest of the playoffs, but we didn’t think he’d be this. But when he was in camp, every day we kept seeing more and more and I said a long time ago that he’s going to be a great player in this league. He just turned 17, him and Eric Alarie are the two youngest guys on the team and they’re both playing very well.”
Denomie is also off to an impressive start and is fourth in league scoring with three goals and seven points, while Alarie is tied for second in rookie scoring with a goal and four points.
The Wheat Kings got on the board first, when former Warrior forward Luka Burzan picked up the puck off a turnover in front of the Tribe net and slid a shot five-hole past Tribe netminder Bailey Brkin.
Joseph got that back only 38 seconds into the second period, finishing off a nifty passing play with Korczak and Denomie with a one-timer past Kruger.
Back-to-back too-many-men penalties hurt the Warriors midway through the second period when Ben McCartney scored on the power play at 8:46 to put Brandon ahead 2-1.
Taphorn tied the game at 9:44 of the third when Braden Miller unleashed a shot from the point through traffic and the rebound found Taphorn all alone in front of the net. A quick dipsy doodle later and the game was tied 2-2.
The third-period surge has become a hallmark of the Tribe through the early part of the season, something that Hunter has been sure to instill in his troops.
“I said to the team after the second period, the beauty of junior hockey is you can play poorly or very average for two periods and still win a hockey game,” he said. “But we had to change a few things, the way we were playing, the way we were pressuring pucks and the way we were checking and moving pucks, and we did.
“You want to finish the games the right way, you want to finish the games hard. We weren’t able to start the game hard, but we were able to seal the deal… These guys are young hockey players and they forget their assignments, they bobble pucks and things happen. So you have to make things happen by applying pressure.”
In what’s quickly becoming a broken record, Brkin put together another solid showing in goal, turning aside 31 shots. Kruger made 28 saves for the Wheat Kings.
The Warriors also continued their incredible run of success in the face-off circle, with Joseph winning 15 of 17, Tate Popple going a perfect 7-for-7 and Daniil Stepanov winning 6-of-7. Overall, the Tribe were 40-for-52 for a 77 per cent team face-off win percentage.
Moose Jaw finished 1-for-3 on the power play, Brandon was 1-for-2.
The Warriors are back in action Sunday, Oct. 6 when they host the Regina Pats. The contest will feature a special game time of 4 p.m. at Mosaic Place.