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Third-period rally not enough as Warriors fall to Raiders

Gardiner, Demonie score as Tribe drop 3-2 decision at Mosaic Place
As the Western Hockey League pre-season continues, the Moose Jaw Warriors are gradually getting a feel for what kind of a line-up they’ll have this season.

Their contest Saturday night at Mosaic Place against the Prince Albert Raiders offered the latest sample size, and while the 3-2 loss was far from ideal, it was another chance to see how certain players react in certain situations. Not ideal this time around in head coach Tim Hunter’s eyes, but all part of the process.

“Every day, everything we do is evaluation and you’re looking for leadership, you’re looking for character from both your older players and your younger players,” Hunter said. “We mix our younger players in with veteran guys, we don’t put a line of all rookies out there or a line of all 20-year-olds all out there. We’re trying to build a culture where everyone is equal and where the older guys help out the younger guys and make like a little easier for them during games and practices, on the bench and what have you.

“That’s what we’re looking for, it’s not about the wins or losses, we want to see who is going be able to step up and play in the right moments and get the job done and be a player who is going to play in the Western Hockey League.”

For the first two periods, the look wasn’t ideal – Prince Albert carried the play much of the first 40 minutes, leading to Ozzy Weisblatt, Illya Usau and Evan Herman all scoring goals on odd-man rushes to take a 3-1 lead into the final frame. Weisblatt’s first-period marker with 7:16 gone was especially tough, as it came with the Raiders down two men and on the second shorthanded breakaway of the power play.

“Those are growing pains, you have a young guy out there having some moments on the power play, then with some other guys, it was just some bad reads,” Hunter said. “Those things are fine, they’re trying and it’s just mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes if you’re trying at maximum effort, it’s when you make mistakes and aren’t giving maximum effort that’s the problem.”

Drae Gardiner scored the Warriors first goal with 5:07 remaining in the frame, faking a slapshot from the point and then ripping a wrist shot home to pull the Tribe within one.

Carson Denomie added the Warriors second goal 5:23 into the third, finishing off a brilliant individual effort with a nifty top-shelf backhand.

The Warriors outshot the Raiders 23-19 in the third and had chances to tie the game late but just fell short.

“In the third period we kind of found our legs and were able to generate some buzz,” Denomie said. “Playing with Eric (Alarie) and Tate (Popple), they’re two very good players and I think we can mesh well and see where it goes.

“In terms of the overall game, we were kind of sloppy and it definitely wasn’t our best… we have to be better than we were tonight, we weren’t mentally prepared and ready to start the game. Playing in this league, that’s one of the most important things, you can’t give any shifts away and we did a too much of that tonight.”

Jackson Berry made 29 saves for the Warriors while Boston Bilous turned aside 24 for the Raiders

The Warriors are back in action Friday, Sept. 13 when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).