The Moose Jaw Warriors were able to overcome a 2-0 deficit before dropping a 3-2 decision in their Western Hockey League season opener in Regina on Friday night.
The question is just how much better things might have been if the Warriors didn't get off to the start they did.
Regina's Austin Pratt scored off a turn-over only 20 seconds into the game, and that set the tone for the rest of the frame. The Warriors had a Daemon Hunt goal called back due to goaltender contact, but that would be the highlight of the period as Regina hemmed the Tribe into their own zone for extended periods of time and generated a slew of scoring chances on Warriors starter Bailey Brkin.
Ty Kolle scored on a rebound from the right goal line to put Regina ahead 2-0 at 10:21. The shots finished 15-2, with the majority of those quality scoring chances.
Things changed dramatically in the second, though, as the Warriors were able to turn the tide and draw the Pats into a handful of penalties, leading to Keenan Taphorn scoring the Tribe's first goal of the season at 8:23. Daniil Stepanov and Braden Miller drew assists, with Miller's helper the first of his WHL career.
Regina created a handful of opportunities late in the second, but Brkin was up to the task. The Pats outshot the Tribe 10-7 in the frame and 25-9 overall.
The hard work continued into the start of the third period, generating another penalty only 1:57 into the frame. The Warriors didn't score there, but when the Pats took another minor at 6:23 – their sixth-straight penalty – Carson Denomie made them pay, finishing off a quick passing play with Hunt and Ryder Korczak to tie the game 13 seconds later.
Regina would combine their own hard work and some bad luck to take back the lead with 9:21 to play, as a simple dump in saw the puck skip away from a Warriors defender right to Kolle, who slipped a shot home to put the Pats ahead 3-2.
That would be where things would finish, as despite a late flurry with the net empty in the final minute, the Warriors were unable to tie the game.
Max Paddock made 20 saves in the Regina goal, while Brkin finished with 27 stops for the Warriors.
Regina finished 0-1 on the power play, the Warriors were 2-for-7.
The two teams are back in action Saturday night, and fans can get in on some pre-game tailgate action during the Pregame Soiree featuring a beer gardens and music running from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the front pad of Mosaic Place. The Pile of Bones Brass Band will provide music and food and drink specials will add to the entertainment.
As for the game itself, a major off-ice highlight will be the night’s 50/50 draw, which will start at $20,810 and could reach six digits by night’s end, based on past draws.
Fans are also encouraged to dress in 1920s fashion for a shot at winning a host of prizes in addition to the regular game-day draws.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.