Turns out, the anwer was ‘plenty.’
And while the Warriors would go on to drop a 5-4 decision in overtime, seeing the improved result was a positive for head coach Tim Hunter.
“It was a big response from us challenging them from last night, it was a disappointing game and that’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re the youngest team in the WHL and played a game against Saskatoon awhile ago where we had 13 rookies in the line-up, no other team in the CHL total has had that many rookies. So we’re going to have some tough nights, but getting beat 11-1 is not the way we want to go about business.
‘Tonight was a tough pill to swallow but we competed a lot harder and managed pucks a lot better and it was a much better effort. The guys responded and that’s what you want to see as a coach… Sometimes with these young teams it’s hard to get them turned around. We talked to them again today and showed them some video about what it looks like when we’re managing pucks correctly and incorrectly and they got it. They played really hard tonight, to a man. That’s all you ask for as a coach that guys keep competing, keep trying and keep learning and keep understanding the importance and the message of what we’re trying to do.”
The Warriors led almost the entirety of the game, beginning with a three-goal outburst over 2:25 early in the first period. Alex Swetlikoff gave Kelowna a 1-0 lead with a power play goal 6:07 into the contest, but Kobe Mohr would tie things up 1:26 later, and only 59 seconds after that goal, Brayden Tracey would give the Tribe a 2-1 lead.
There the score would stay until Micheal Farren tied things up 4:59 into the third, leading to the most back-and-forth 15 minutes of hockey seen at Mosaic Place in quite some time.
The game’s next goal was a milestone marker for Warriors rookie defenceman Denton Mateychuk, who scored the first goal of his WHL career in only his second game. The 15-year-old first round Bantam Draft pick was the youngest player to score for the Warriors since Daemon Hunt scored as a 15-year-old two seasons ago.
“We got the turnover in the defensive zone and then I just tried to join the rush and it was good for Ryder [Korczak] to find me there and I was able to get off the shot,” Mateychuk said of his goal. “The coaching staff was just telling me to play my game and that’s what I was able to do.”
The youngster drew rave reviews from Hunter, especially when it came to his puck-moving abilities.
“We drafted Denton because he’s a real heads up and high IQ hockey player,” Hunter said. “He has a great efficiency rating passing the puck to his teammates and he’s going to be a future star in this league. That’s why we drafted and signed him and we’re really excited about what we saw from him the last two nights.
“Last night he was our best defenceman passing the puck, and tonight again. That’s what you ask from your D, your D are puck movers and not puck transporters and he follows the rush well, sees the play and that’s how he scored his goal.”
Kaiden Korczak – the older brother of Warriors standout Ryder (see sidebar) – would tie the game with a shorthanded marker at 8:32 before Ryder Korczak again gave the Warriors the lead just over five minutes later.
The edge wouldn’t stand, though, as Pavel Novak would tie the game on a deflected shot that just barely crossed the line behind Adam Evanoff with 4:06 to play, and Kaeden Korczak would wrap things up 31 seconds into overtime.
Adam Evanoff had 32 saves in goal for the Warriors, Roman Basran turned aside 23 for Kelowna.
The Warriors improved to 10-17-2-0 with the win and sit nine points back of Brandon for the second Eastern Conference wild card spot.
The Warriors are now off until after Christmas, with their next game Friday, Dec. 27 against the Regina Pats at Mosaic Place. Game time is 7 p.m.