The Moose Jaw WINMAR Warriors are on the verge of qualifying for one of the highest-profile 18-and-under AAA hockey tournaments in the world.
Thanks to a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Notre Dame Hounds in Sask Male AAA Hockey League action at the Moose Jaw Events Centre on Wednesday night, the Warriors have moved into the top four in the league in win percentage and as a result are in position to land a spot in the Circle K Classic beginning Dec. 27 in Calgary.
The elite tournament -- formerly known as the Mac’s -- annually features the best U18 AAA teams from across Canada in addition to a host of top international squads and is one of the early-season prizes for the SMAAAHL’s top teams.
The Warriors improved to 10-5-0-0 with the win, giving themselves a .667 win percentage to sit tied for second with the Regina Pat Canadians. The deadline to qualify for the Circle K Classic comes up next week, with Moose Jaw having a single game before then when they travel to Notre Dame on Saturday.
Fortunately for the local crew, the majority of teams chasing the top four face one another this weekend, increasing their chances of holding their spot.
The win on Wednesday was anything but easy and took some timely late-game scoring to get the job done.
Notre Dame’s Carter Ellsworth scored the lone goal of the first period, but Moose Jaw’s Gage Nagel got that one back in the second on a slick individual effort to send things into the third period tied 1-1.
The Hounds retook the lead on a goal from Ryan Kowalsky 4:15 into the final frame, but the home team would find a way to get things done. Ryan Gibbs tied the game with 9:52 to play and Chase Petersen would get the game-winner with 4:47 remaining, giving the Warriors the all-important two points.
Dylan Duzan picked up a pair of assists and is now sixth in SMAAAHL scoring with seven goals and 18 points in 15 games.
Ryan Bain had a solid game in goal with 31 saves on the night, while the Warriors poured 50 shots on Notre Dame’s Mariko Bercier, including 22 in the second period alone.
The WINMAR Warriors are back in action for the aforementioned game in Wilcox against Notre Dame on Saturday, followed by a trip to Regina to face the Pat Canadians on Saturday, Nov. 18. All told, the Warriors play four games on the road before their next home contest, a meeting with the Estevan Bears on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.