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Bounce back time: Warriors looking for better result in return match against Winnipeg

After ugly third period in 10-2 loss in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Moose Jaw aiming for better showing back at home on Saturday night
Warriors practice pre-Winnipeg
The Moose Jaw Warriors coaching staff kept a close eye on the action during practice on Thursday afternoon.

There’s no easy or simple way to put it: the third period of Wednesday night’s game between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Winnipeg Ice ended up as one of the worst in Warriors’ team history.

Going back as far as the 1995-96 season -- as deep as the Western Hockey League website goes -- the team had never given up seven goals in a single period before. And especially in the third period of a game they had been competitive in until the final frame.

No, the 10-2 loss wasn’t a good night for the local squad. But hockey being hockey, the two teams are right back at it on Saturday night, this time at Mosaic Place.

And Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary will be looking for a major bounce-back performance from his troops.

“I think that’s the biggest thing for us any time, whether it’s a rough shift or a rough game or a rough couple weeks, it’s all about getting back on the horse and getting up quick,” O’Leary said after an uptempo practice on Friday afternoon. “That’s what we plan to do tomorrow, we’ve had a couple good days of practice here and done some learning and taken ownership what happened the other night and now we’re looking forward to changing it.”

O’Leary had a simple message for his team in the time since the loss: control what you can control, and be consistent. 

“We played pretty well in terms of two periods, we weren’t perfect and we gave up too many chances off the rush that we have to clean up, but we were right in the game against a pretty good team,” he said. “So we want to make sure we’re continuing to do those things.”

Make no mistake, Winnipeg is off to a perfect 8-0-0-0 start to the season for a good reason -- they have terrifying depth from top to bottom and a solid defensive corps that can also put up points. That’s all the more reason for the Warriors to put a hard focus on solid team play and maintain their level of effort from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer.

“We felt confident in stretches during the game, but we have to be real about the fact they’re a really good team and without the saves that Tetachuk made early on, that’s not a 3-2 game going into the third period,” O’Leary said. “There’s a lot to improve on, the season is young, but we’re looking forward to changing the 10-2 narrative.”

Tetachuk will get the start in goal after playing all 60 minutes of the loss on Wednesday.

“I’ve had some good conversations with Carl, it was one of those weird nights where there wasn’t time to pull him out and by the time it got out of hand it wasn’t fair to throw Brett (Mirwald) in there after sitting cold that long,” O’Leary said of his decision not to pull the 20-year-old netminder as the game got out of hand. “Giving up that amount of goals in the final six minutes of the game isn’t ideal and that’s something we feel bad for Carl for.

“It’s not going to change how he plays, though, and we’re going to go right back with him on Saturday night and he’ll be a big part of us turning things around.”

The team will take the ice without their captain and defensive leader in Daemon Hunt, who received a four-game suspension for a hit on Zachary Benson late in Wednesday’s game.

“We’ve been here before, not by choice certainly,” O’Leary said, referring to Hunt’s bad luck with injuries throughout his WHL career. “We’re not looking forward to being without him, he plays 26 minutes a night. So someone else will have a good opportunity and that’s just the way things go sometimes and we’ll find a way.”

Puck drop on Saturday night is 7 p.m. and fans are reminded that proof of vaccination or a negative test from the previous 72 hours is necessary for entrance into the game.