The last time the Moose Jaw Warriors and Edmonton Oil Kings met, the two teams ended up in a track meet that resulted in a 7-5 Edmonton win.
Saturday on Hockey Fights Cancer Night, the Warriors were far better defensively, and that translated into a 7-3 victory in Western Hockey League action at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
The Warriors improved to 13-9-0-1 with the win and moved into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with the idle Prince Albert Raiders, three points back of Medicine Hat and Saskatoon for first.
“We knew we needed to bounce back after last game and i think we really did that tonight,” said Warriors forward Ethan Semeniuk, who had a goal and two assists on the night. “I think we had a good start and we could have even had a little better start, but the boys came out and played a really good game tonight.”
Pavel McKenzie got things started 2:48 into the game, and it was the product of a bit of luck. McKenzie broke in down the right wing and got a shot off from in close that rebounded in front off a defender’s leg and into the Edmonton net.
The rest of the first period was scoreless, but Edmonton had a two-minute stretch where they had a series of odd-man rushes -- incuding a three-on-one that turned into a two-on-none in close, only for the shot to sail wide of the net. Dmitri Fortin was up to the challenge on the other chances and stopped 10 shots in the opening frame.
The ice began to tilt in the Warriors' favour to open the second period, and they’d make it 2-0 at the 8:46 mark. Jagger Firkus nearly scored on a partial breakaway but the puck went wide of the net and into the corner. Semeniuk collected the puck and put a shot on net from behind the goal line looking for a rebound, only for the puck to bank in off goaltender Logan Cunningham and in.
By that point in the contest, it was plenty apparent that things were going to be a lot different than they were in Edmonton a couple weeks earlier.
“They generate lots of the rush, they’re good at that and they work hard. Then they get to the front of the net, so we knew we had to be better, get inside and that’s exactly what we did,” Semeniuk said of the difference between the games.
“We have lots of talent, obviously, but hard work and playing the right way is what we have to focus on, especially over this next stretch of games… when we have all our lines going, we’re tough to beat and that’s what worked for us tonight.”
Edmonton got one back with five minutes to play in the second when a rebound off a shot from the point went straight to Gavin Hodnett alone in the slot, and he’d flip the puck into the net to make it a 3-1 game.
The Warriors restored their three-goal edge 6:08 into the third when, after a flurry of Warrior chances, Denton Mateychuk got off a shot in close, collected his own rebound and put a shot home.
The point extended Mateychuk’s point streak to 16 games, the longest by a Warrior defenceman in the internet era by five games and growing. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has a point in every game since returning to the team on Oct. 10.
Brayden Schuurman increased the lead to 5-1 after taking a cross-ice feed from Lynden Lakovic at the 7:40 mark, but Blake Fiddler got Edmonton back within three with 6:30 play in the contest and Marc Lajoie made it a two-goal game on the power play with the goaltender pulled with 2:17 to play.
That would be as close as they’d get, though, as Atley Calvert scored on a slick individual effort with 1:36 to play and McKenzie added his second of the game with three seconds left to close out scoring.
Fortin turned aside 33 shots on the night -- facing 19 in the third period -- while Cunningham had 29 saves for the Oil Kings.
The Warriors are back in action on Friday, Nov. 24 when the Swift Current Broncos are in town. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
Overtime… in honour of Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Warriors played a special video honouring forward Ethan Hughes, who battled kidney cancer as a child but through the support of family and the community completely recovered… Cancer surviors Jasmine Cameron and Rick McKeown -- both longtime Warrior supporters -- dropped the puck during the pre-game ceremony, with Hughes taking the face-off for the Warriors.