The Warriors fell 7-3 to the Calgary Hitmen on Friday before dropping a 5-4 decision in overtime to the Lethbridge Hurricanes the next night. Not the best results, but at the same time a good opportunity for growth and development in head coach Tim Hunter’s eyes.
“It’s progress and that’s what we’re looking for as coaches, progress,” Hunter said. “I thought three of our 17-year-olds played their best games in Lethbridge and five of the 17-year-old forwards played fairly well in both games. And our young ‘D’ as well held their own for the most part of the weekend and they were better in Lethbridge.
“So there was a lot of good stuff, it was really positive. They’re starting to figure out a bit of the speed, a bit of the transition from the puck and getting it to your teammates and the quickness of the game. So we’re happy with a lot of that, too.”
While the Warriors got off to a 5-1 start while facing teams that are currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the schedule has been far less kind as of late, with the loss to Calgary offering an example of a team loaded to win this season against a crew looking two years down the road.
“Calgary is a team of 2000s and 2001s and we’re a team of 2002s and 2003s, they’re built to win this year and we’re rebuilding,” Hutner said. “So credit to them, they have a good team and had a good effort. But I didn’t think they dominated us, we just gave up too many scoring chances in the key areas and they capitalized on it.”
That game – and the majority of what the Warriors have seen in recent weeks – saw the Tribe heavily outshot, giving up close to 40 or more the last four contests. But, as is often the case with straight stats, that isn’t telling the whole story.
“Shot volume is different compared to pure scoring chances, we keep all those analytics and we’re doing fine in those departments,” Hunter said. “When you’re a younger team you’re going to give up more shots than you take, and that’s typical. It’s limiting those key scoring chances right around the front of the net that we didn’t do a good job with, we allowed too many against Calgary but we limited Lethbridge, so it’s coming along.”
And with that will come a reduction in the largest issue the team has faced as of late – goals against. The Warriors have surrendered 30 over the last five games, and defensive improvement is definitely something in the cards for the youthful squad.
“To compete in this league and earn a playoff spot, you’re going to have to do better defensively and that’s been our goal,” Hunter said. “Then it’s the style of play and pace of play and cleaning things up we do as far as turnovers coming out of our end and in the offensive zone, giving the other team easy access to the puck. It’s all things we have to learn to do consistently.”
The Warriors are back in action on Friday, Oct. 25 when they host the Calgary Hitmen. Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.