Burke, Peckford shine as Warriors top Wheat Kings in Saturday Showcase

Robert Murray


Junior hockey fans got treated to an offensive spectacle on Sportsnet’s latest Saturday Showcase matchup as the East Division-leading Moose Jaw Warriors gained two valuable points in the standings with a 7-4 win against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Ryan Peckford, identified as a ‘Player to Watch’ by NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft, continued to gel with his new teammates, scoring a pair of goals and finishing with three points while Linden McCorrister tallied twice in response for the Wheat Kings, who lost ground in the tough East Division standings.

Things started well for the Wheat Kings in their national television appearance. Daniel Bukac (Boston Bruins) fired the puck in on net from the blue line, where it bounced around in the slot before ending up on the stick of Gunnar Wegleitner, who beat Brody Willms glove side for the opening goal of the game just 2:13 in.

Four-and-a-half minutes later, the Wheat Kings doubled their lead. Stelio Mattheos (Carolina Hurricanes) controlled the put in the corner and fed it near the face-off circle to the right of Warriors goaltender Brody Willms. It took all of a second for Linden McCorrister, the recipient of the pass, to fire it past Willms for the game’s second goal, putting the home side in charge.

It wouldn’t take the Warriors long to find their spark though as less than a minute later, 59 seconds to be exact, Justin Almeida sprang Brayden Burke and Peckford in on a two-on-one rush. After Burke dangled a Wheat Kings defender out of the play he fed the puck across to Peckford, who got the Warriors on the board.

Moose Jaw would take the lead in the final few minutes of the first. First, as the Wheat Kings were attempting to clear the puck out of the zone, the puck got directed back to goaltender Logan Thompson from the corner, who hit it with the heel of his stick before it squeaked through his pads to even up the score. Though he didn’t touch the puck, Tristin Langan got credit for his sixth of the season.

With opening period in its dying seconds, Burke found Peckford for the second time in the period, feeding him the puck on a backhand from behind the net and to a streaking Peckford, who deposited the puck into the back of the net.

Peckford returned the favour to his teammates midway through the second when he seized the role of passer, feeding the puck out from behind the net to draft-eligible defenceman Jett Woo in the slot who wasted no time in burying his seventh of the season.

On the power play minutes later, the Warriors added to their lead. Burke factored into his third goal of the game by passing the puck into the high slot for Justin Almedia, whose shot was tipped in by Jayden Halbgewachs (San Jose Sharks) to increase Moose Jaw’s lead to three.

McCorrister got the Wheat Kings back in it minutes later with his second of the game, skating in unopposed to the front of the net and beating Willms cleanly to bring the home side within a pair of goals.

It would all be for naught though as the Warriors restored the three-goal lead thanks to Tanner Jeannot, who capitalized on a beautiful pass by Halbgewachs into the low slot area, burying his 27th of the campaign.

The third period saw both teams tone down the offensive slugfest, with each adding a single goal in the final 20 minutes. Evan Weinger tallied his 17th over the season with 4:31 to go, but Burke completed a four-point effort with an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Willms finished with 29 saves on 33 shots, posting his 22nd victory of the season to move him into a tie for the league lead. Logan Thompson stopped 32 of 38 shots in the loss.

In addition to big games from Peckford and Burke, Halbgewachs and Langan each had a goal and an assist while Almedia picked up four helpers. Evan Weinger potted a goal and an assist for Brandon while defenceman Schael Higson added a pair of assists.

The Warriors went one-for-five on the power play Saturday while the Wheat Kings were unable to convert on any of their five chances.

Up next for both clubs is a trip west along the Trans-Canada Highway back to Moose Jaw, where they’ll do battle in the tail-end of a home-and home series Sunday, December 31 (7:00 p.m. CST)

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