The Moose Jaw Warriors are in the win column in the 2023-24 Western Hockey League campaign.
And if there’s any question as to what kind of an impact Jagger Firkus can have on a team at this level, it’s been answered.
Firkus scored the game’s opening goal and finished with three points on the night as the Warriors battled to a 4-2 victory over the Regina Pats in Regina in the first game of the Trans Canada Clash.
His offence wouldn’t have mattered, though, if not for the play of goaltender Jackson Unger.
The 18-year-old netminder was absolutely outstanding when his team needed him the most, stopping 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the first period and 36 on the night, including a handful of huge saves in the third period to preserve the lead late.
A little over a day after being assigned to the Warriors by the Seattle Kraken, Firkus needed just over 16 minutes to score his first goal of the season. The 19-year-old second-round NHL pick spun off the boards and sent a pass to the centre of the ice before pouncing on a rebound on the ensuing shot by Atley Calvert to make it a 1-0 game.
That lead wouldn’t last the period, though, as Tye Spencer tied the contest with 2:38 remaining in the frame.
A neutral zone turnover then led to Regina taking their first lead of the night with six minutes to play in the second period. Tanner Howe was the beneficiary, picking up the puck along the boards and breaking in down the left wing before putting a shot home five hole.
The Warriors were able to tie the game 5:18 into the third, with a bit of stick-to-it-iveness by Lynden Lakovic making it a 2-2 contest. Firkus set up the play by getting a centering pass to Ben Riche, who found Lakovic breaking in down the right wing. Kelton Pyne was able to make the first save for Regina, but Lakovic picked up his own rebound and flipped the puck into the open net for his second of the season.
The Warriors then took the lead for good, scoring their first power-play goal of the season in the process. Eric Alarie did the honours, but not before some slick passing between Firkus and Matthew Gallant set him up with space in the slot. A quick shot through the five-hole later, and Moose Jaw had a 3-2 lead with less than five minutes to play.
A Regina power play a minute after the go-ahead goal gave the Pats a chance to tie the game, but Unger would make a huge save on a Howe one-timer to preserve the lead.
Howe took a high sticking penalty moments later to make it four-on-four, and Calvert would finish things off with an empty-net power-play goal with 55 seconds to play.
That didn’t stop Howe from nearly making it a one-goal game again in the final minute, but Unger just managed to turn away a shot in close to keep the pressure off as time wound down.
The Warriors finished their night with 23 shots on Pyne.
Moose Jaw is now 1-2 on the season and have vaulted from dead last in the Eastern Conference to fifth place. Next action for the local squad is Friday night when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.