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