The Moose Jaw Warriors endured a bit of the extremely good and a bit of the very bad in only 24 hours of Western Hockey League action.
First, there was their 4-2 win over the Canadian Hockey League-top ranked Prince Albert Raiders in Prince Albert on Friday night. The Tribe then returned home and gave up four goals in the first period on their way to a 6-0 loss to the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday.
As a result, the Warriors now hold a 21-9-5-1 record, good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference, a point back of Edmonton and two back of Lethbridge with at least three games in hand on every team ahead of them in the standings.
One huge beneficiary of the win for Portland was Winterhawks forward Reece Newkirk. The 17-year-old Moose Jaw minor hockey product scored the opening goal of the game 3:47 into the first and touched off a wild celebration for a huge contingent of fans who filled a section of Mosaic Place to cheer him on.
“It was nice,” Newkirk said of the support. “I came out for warm-ups and all the guys were 'holy, you have a lot of guys up there'. So it's good to have them here, showing support. I couldn't be here without them.”
Newkirk finished the game with a goal and an assist, giving him 18 goals and 43 points in 39 games. He was also named the contest's first star.
“It was great. Obviously, I've been waiting for this game for a long time, I've been waiting for it since I got (to Portland),” Newkirk said. “Then to score in front of my friends and family is the best feeling of my life... They were coming off a big win against Prince Albert, so we knew they were hot and we had to come out playing well. We did that and we're happy with the outcome.”
Jake Gricius, Lane Gilliss, Clay Hanus, Seth Jarvis and Joachim Blichfeld all scored for Portland. Shane Farkas made 23 saves for the shut-out win.
Adam Evanoff stopped seven shots in the first period for the Warriors before giving way to Brodan Salmond, who made 25 stops the rest of the way.
Warriors assistant coach Mark O'Leary wasn't putting too much stock into the loss, preferring to chalk it up to one of 'those' games.
“The good thing is it isn't against a division rival or even a team from the conference, so we can learn from the game tape a little bit but it's not exactly a pre-sked game for down the road,” he said. “There are going to be nights like this and we just have to shake it off.”
One night earlier in Prince Albert, things were decidedly different.
Brayden Tracey scored on the power play 7:31 into the third period and that stood as the game winning goal in their huge win over the Raiders in P.A.
Tristin Langan finished the game with a hat trick, including an empty net goal. Jett Woo and Josh Brook – recently returned from the World Junior championship -- had two assists each.
Salmond made 38 saves for the win; the Warriors fired 27 at Ian Scott.
Ozzy Weisblatt and Brayden Pachal scored for Prince Albert, with the two teams tied 1-1 through the first and 2-2 through two.
The Warriors return to action Jan. 9 against the Calgary Hitmen (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).