For a team many were predicting doom and gloom for heading into the 2018-19 Western Hockey League season, the Moose Jaw Warriors have certainly made things plenty interesting.
So interesting, in fact, that despite losing hundreds of goals and three times that number in point production, the Tribe find themselves closing in on yet another 40-win season – a mark that was deemed all but impossible given how the Warriors had lost the likes of Jayden Halbgewachs (70-59-129), Brayden Burke (31-82-113), Tanner Jeannot (40-40-80), Brett Howden (24-51-75) and Kale Clague (11-60-71), just as the team’s top scorers alone.
Yet, heading into Sunday afternoon’s contest with the Saskatoon Blades, the Warriors carried a 37-19-6-2 record and with four games remaining, will have a chance to hit what was once rarified air for the local squad.
For 20 years through the mid-80s, all the way through the 90s and even into the first few years of the new millennium, the Warriors were a team for which 40 wins was a foreign concept. Essentially the standard for a ‘good’ season in the WHL, the Tribe were close a handful of times, but after their 42-30-0 record in 1982-83, they wouldn’t touch the mark again until 2003-04, when the Kyle Brodziak, Thomas Fleischmann and Aaron Rome led the Warriors to a 41-22-8-1 mark to win the East Division title for the first time in team history.
Since then, Warriors fans have regularly been spoiled.
There was legendary 44-win campaign in 2005-06 that saw the Troy Brouwer-led Tribe reach the WHL final before losing to the Vancouver Giants. And back-to-back campaigns of 40 and 45 wins in 2010-11 and 2011-12, courtesy of the likes of Quinton Howden, Dylan Hood and Joel Edmundson, And, of course, the last two years, as Halbgewachs, Howden and Jeannot propelled the Warriors to 42 wins in 2016-17 and an amazing 52 victories in their Scotty Munro Trophy-winning campaign last year.
The Warriors close out the regular season with two of their final three games on the road, including the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday, followed by a season-ending home and home series Mar. 15 and 16 against the last-place Swift Current Broncos.