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Warriors score five straight on way to victory over Medicine Hat

Baco scores hat trick, Yager pair as Moose Jaw rolls to 6-1 win at Mosaic Place
The first two times the Moose Jaw Warriors and Medicine Hat Tigers met in Western Hockey League action this season, the contests were one goal battles that ended up going to overtime.

The Warriors wanted no part of that on Friday night at Mosaic Place.

Robert Baco scored his first career hat trick and the Warriors would go on to an 6-2 victory in their first game in two weeks after a league-wide COVID-19 outbreak,

The contest marked the return to the line-up for captain Daemon Hunt, who missed more than a month of action after suffering a broken hand during World Junior training camp in early December.

“It was really nice to be back in Moose Jaw and playing again, and it’s always fun to win, the boys played really well tonight,” Hunt said. “Myself personally, I felt I was definitely a bit rusty, getting back and making plays quick wasn’t in my game and I had to adjust a little bit. But I thought I did a pretty good job tonight once things got going and will look to build on this over the weekend.”

Moose Jaw didn’t take long to get on the board, and it was a slick play by NHL Central Scouting Bureau-ranked Jagger Firkus that got things going. Firkus threw a spinarama pass off the right boards and into the slot, finding Brayden Yager all alone for the one-timer, and the 16-year-old rookie made no mistake in giving the Warriors a 1-0 lead only 1:35 in.

The Warriors looked to get out of the first period with the lead, but a defensive zone turnover would see the Tigers tie things up, with Carter Chorney finishing things off after taking a cross-crease pass from Ashton Ferster.

Baco restored the Warriors lead 7:25 into the second, taking a perfect cross-ice feed through traffic from Eric Alarie, beating his man to the net and tapping home a shot five-hole to put Moose Jaw up 2-1.

Baco then picked up his second of the game five minutes later, taking another slick feed from Alarie and finding himself all alone at the side of the net. Another quick tap in, and the Warriors were up by a pair.

“Eric and Korzy made it easy for me, I just tucked it in and it was simple as that,” the Warriors’ 18-year-old Slovakian import said. “It’s easy when you’re in the right place at the right time.”

Yager made it a three-goal lead 4:17 into the third, and it was yet another nice set-up from Firkus that put the deal in motion, with his saucer pass from the far boards finding Yager all alone in the slot and redirecting into the goal.

Baco then finished off his three-goal night in style, out-racing a Tigers defender for the puck and going in on a short-handed breakaway. A slick stickhandling display later, and Moose Jaw led 5-1 with 10:04 remaining in the game.

Alarie capped off a three-point game of his own with 5:27 to play, taking advantage of the open ice on a four-on-four to break in on a two-on-one and getting off a shot top shelf from the slot.

The Tigers’ Rhett Parsons got one back for the Tigers with just over four minutes to play, but Medicine Hat would get no closer.

“They had a couple pushbacks throughout the game and we got stuck in our zone a couple of times, but we played Moose Jaw hockey, and that’s skating 200 feet, backchecking and forechecking and then from there our skill takes over,” Hunt said. “Our little details were good, too, and then Bacs having a hat trick was great to see… it was just a good all-around game and I’m proud of the boys.”

Baco felt much the same way, especially with how well things went after such a long break.

“It was good, it was a pretty important game for us after we had a week of quarantine, and that was unfortunate,” he said. “We just had consistency and kept up the pressure and kept it simple. We did what the coach was saying to us and that was it.”

Carl Tetachuk had another solid game in goal, facing 27 shots, while the Warriors fired 22 at Medicine Hat’s Beckett Langkow.

Moose Jaw improved to 17-14-3-1 and moved into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the Saskatoon Blades, six points back of Red Deer for third and two up on Brandon in sixth.

The Warriors will face a tough test on Saturday night, as the Eastern Conference-leading Winnipeg Ice visit Mosaic Place for the first time since Oct. 23, when Winnipeg scored four times in the final nine minutes to steal a 5-4 victory. Game time is 7 p.m.