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Warriors close out pre-season with win in Brandon

Alarie, Hayes score as Tribe take 2-1 victory over Wheaties, regular season starts next weekend
If the Moose Jaw Warriors prove to be as quick studies as they were this weekend against the Brandon Wheat Kings, it could end up being a better season than many are expecting for the local Western Hockey League club.

Eric Alarie and Cade Hayes each scored goals and Bailey Brkin made 26 saves in his first start in a Warriors uniform as the Tribe picked up a 2-1 victory in Brandon.

The win saw the Warriors close out their pre-season schedule with a 2-5 record, while the Wheat Kings finished 2-2 in their four exhibition games.

“It’s part of the process and how guys go about playing the game and showing that they’re capable of playing,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter. “I thought Sunday in Brandon we had a much better effort than we did in Moose Jaw, there were a lot of technical things we did wrong in the first game and we had gone over all those things, so it was kind of disappointing to have that happen. But we corrected all those, the effort was great in Brandon right from the goaltender on out to the young 02-03 group to the veteran guys.”

Seeing the team put improvements and corrections into practice quickly is something that’s going to be key going forward for a team that will be loaded with youth when the regular season begins next weekend.

“They’re young guys and not all of them come from really structured backgrounds, the difference in Midget hockey is eight to 10 feet, the difference in junior hockey is about two feet. So there’s lots of learning to do and lots of teaching to do,” Hunter said. “But we’re willing to put the patience in because we know these guys will be good hockey players one day and they’re going to get better every day. That’s our goal, to improve this team and make sure that we’re technically sound and defensively sound and we’ll score by committee.”

It was especially positive to see Brkin step in and play as well as he did despite having yet to see game action this season. Added by the Warriors a little over a week ago after emerging as the odd man out in the Vancouver Giants goaltending situation, the overage netminder will be looked to as a stabilizing influence as Adam Evanoff recovers from off-season hip surgery.

“He played real well,” Hunter said. “He’s really calming and confident in the net and really good with the puck, he had to make a couple of big saves and he did. It wasn’t a lot of work for him, but for a guy who hadn’t skated before we got him 10 days ago, he looked pretty good. He’s a 20-year-old, so he’s a pro and he knows how to prepare himself and that’s what we expected.”

The next week will be all about preparation for the Warriors, as they kick off their season Friday in Regina against the Pats before hosting their home opener the next night against Regina. Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.

“We’re still building, we added (overager) Jadon Joseph (see related story) and he’ll bring some hard hockey and skill and leadership to our group, and then just getting everyone kind of settled and trying to find some chemistry and line combinations together,” Hunter said. “Obviously a lot will be determined by if and when we get Brayden Tracey back (from Anaheim Ducks camp), but some of the guys have separated themselves a bit and have played pretty consistent and pretty well, as well come guys have been a little bit up and down, which is to be expected.

“So we’ll let them all fall into place with where they’ve performed, let things fall into place and get ready to compete against Regina on Friday night.”