It’s show­time!

War­riors set to open sea­son in Prince Al­bert; home opener Satur­day at Mo­saic Place

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - RANDY PALMER

Moose Jaw War­riors set to open sea­son in Prince Al­bert, home opener Satur­day at Mo­saic Place.

Things have turned out re­mark­ably well for the Moose Jaw War­riors head­ing into their first game of the West­ern Hockey League reg­u­lar sea­son.

Af­ter see­ing seven of their top play­ers head off to Na­tional Hockey League train­ing camps in re­cent weeks, the Tribe have all but two in the line-up for their opening game tonight in Prince Al­bert.

The Raiders re­turn the favour for the War­riors home opener on Satur­day (7 p.m., Mo­saic Place).

For­ward Jay­den Hal­bgewachs (Las Ve­gas) and Noah Gre­gor (San Jose) both re­turned to the team ear­lier in the week, while de­fence­man Oleg So­sunov (Tampa Bay) made the trip north on Wed­nes­day.

The War­riors then re­ceived news Thurs­day that for­ward Tan­ner Jean­not and de­fence­man Dmitri Zait­sev (both Wash­ing­ton) would be back for Fri­day’s game.

That leaves team cap­tain Brett How­den at train­ing camp in Tampa Bay, with his War­riors sta­tus un­known.

It all means that the War­riors will be in out­stand­ing shape for the first puck drop tonight.

“We didn’t ex­pect them to be at their camps long, but you never know and it’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence for them to go play at that level and see what the fu­ture holds, and they’re bet­ter play­ers for it,” said War­riors coach Tim Hunter. “But def­i­nitely their place is here to de­velop an­other year and I look for­ward to them hav­ing some good sea­sons for us.”

The news isn’t per­fect, though.

Stand­out de­fence­man Josh Brook suf­fered a ma­jor wrist in­jury at Mon­treal Cana­di­ens train­ing camp and will have surgery to re­pair the dam­age. As a re­sult, he’ll be out of the line-up un­til Christ­mas.

“We have depth on de­fence and some­one who’s a left shot will have to slide over and play the right side, which is only a small is­sue that we’ll be able to deal with,” said Hunter. “You can’t re­place a player like Josh, but it’s some­thing we’re going to work around.”

The War­riors will have a bit of a dif­fer­ent look this sea­son in that they won’t have any 16-year-olds with the team, as Bray­den Tracey was re­leased ear­lier in the week and Austin Her­ron sent home on Thurs­day.

The team felt the moves will be bet­ter for the young play­ers in the long run.

“It’s a de­ci­sion be­tween us, the player’s fam­ily and what’s the best in­ter­est for the player when it comes to their de­vel­op­ment,” Hunter said. “If they play here and play spar­ingly in 40 games, be­ing in and out of the line-up and not used a lot, or they can go play Midget AAA and have the puck a lot and a lot of pres­sure on them to per­form and have fun at the same time.

“It’s not a mat­ter of us going one di­rec­tion or an­other, it’s al­ways what’s best for the player.”

That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of work to­wards im­prove­ment for young play­ers re­main­ing on the team’s ros­ter.

“We have a num­ber of good play­ers who are going to fight for spots in the top nine and we have a num­ber of other play­ers who are going to learn to play and de­velop in the bot­tom part of the line-up,” Hunter said. “We have a num­ber of 17-year-olds who still have a ways to go and a cou­ple of 18-year-olds who have a ways to go as well.”

It all rolls into the pack­age the Tribe will be tak­ing up High­way 2 to­day, with Hunter ex­pect­ing the tra­di­tional tough game from the Raiders in their home rink.

“We’re pretty fa­mil­iar with what they have and we had some peo­ple at their game in Regina, so we have a pretty good idea what we’re look­ing at,” Hunter said. “They’ll be com­pet­i­tive, they al­ways play us hard in P.A. and we’ll have to be ready to bat­tle and push the pace.”


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