Moose Jaw Warriors (13-4-0-0) at Regina Pats (11-6-2-0)
Wednesday, November 1 – Brandt Centre 7 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
It’s amazing the difference 43 days can make during the Western Hockey League regular season.
That’s the situation facing the Regina Pats as they host the Moose Jaw Warriors Friday in WHL On Access action from the Brandt Centre. When the teams last met on September 29, which the Warriors won by a 5-4 final in overtime, they were 2-0 entering the game while the Pats were 1-2, with that overtime loss not helping their case for gaining ground in the division race.
Now, as the two teams prepare to face-off for the second of eight meetings this season, the Pats are in much better shape, sitting second in the East Division, two points behind their Trans-Canada rivals who sit in first. The race for the division and Eastern Conference title — the top three teams in the East Division also own the three best records in the Conference — grows tighter each day with the Swift Current Broncos holding the division lead in their name temporarily throughout the first third of the season.
The biggest factor added into the first of two weekend battles is the season debut of Pats forward Nick Henry, who underwent shoulder surgery in June after being drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the fourth round, 94th overall, of the 2017 NHL Draft will be added back into the Pats lineup tonight.
A promising rookie campaign saw Henry tally 81 points (35G-46A) in a full 72 games. His return to the lineup, along with the efforts of offensive stars such as Sam Steel, Matt Bradley and Emil Oksanen will make the Pats one of the most-feared offences in the entire league. Though he’s on a bit of a cold streak with just five goals in his past nine games, Bradley himself has eight multi-point games this season and once he rediscovers some of the success he had at the beginning of the season — 10-game point streak — the Pats should put more pressure on their opponents.
The Pats are still working to make amends for their penalty kill figures, which sits 20th in the league entering play Friday. Over their past five games, the Pats have allowed three goals on 14 penalty kill situations (78.57 per cent), so for the moment they’re trending up. The Warriors aren’t in the middle of the pack when it comes to the man-advantage, with a 21.7 per cent success rate, which should provide enough of a challenge to the Pats.
What will be fun to watch is how the team’s handle each other when the Pats go to the power play, which will pits the league’s third-best man-advantage against the league’s fourth-best penalty kill.
For the visiting Warriors, they’ll be eager to score a victory in the first meeting of the season series at the Brandt Centre before the teams meet again Sunday at Mosaic Place. For a team that’s won six of their last seven and lead the Eastern Conference, there’s very little breathing room at the moment with both the Pats and Broncos chasing after them.
Regardless of who’s chasing them, Tim Hunter has his club in a great spot. Offence has also been the name of the game when it comes to the Warriors’ success, but there’s another very good reason behind their success: goaltending duo of Brody Willms and Adam Evanoff.
The departure of Zach Sawchenko left a bit of a question mark in the crease, but through 17 games, that question mark has been sufficiently answered by the pair. Willms has handled the bulk of the goaltending duties, winning his first five starts of the season and has picked up a victory in four of his last five games, featuring two games where he’s allowed just a single goal. Willms ranks fourth among qualified goaltenders in goals-against-average (2.72), fifth among goaltenders who have played at least 500 minutes in SV% (.912) and is tied for second in the league with 10 wins.
As good as Willms has been, Evanoff has been just as strong in a backup role with the Warriors, owning a 3-0-0-0 record, 2.33 goals-against average and 0.935 SV%. Regardless of who has been put in net, the Warriors have a chance to win with either of their goaltenders.
Considering the team is still missing defencemen Josh Brook and Dmitri Zaitsev, the Warriors are just a few pieces away from being an even stronger team than they are right now. Overall, the 45 goals given up by the Warriors this season is the third-best figure in the league behind only the Broncos (40) and and Portland Winterhawks (43) who have also played fewer games.
Watch all the action unfold Friday in WHL on Access action!
Moose Jaw Warriors
Head coach: Tim Hunter
Leading scorers: LW Brayden Burke (8-21-29); Jayden Halbgewachs (11-12-23); C Brett Howden (10-13-23)
Leading goaltender: Brody Willms (14GP, 10-4-0-0, 2.72 GAA, 0.912 SV%)
Power play: 12th – 21.7 per cent
Penalty kill: Fourth – 83.3 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: LW Jaxan Kaluski (upper-body, day-to-day); D Josh Brook (upper-body, week-to-week); D Dmitri Zaitsev (upper-body, week-to-week)
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) November 10, 2017
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Matt Bradley (14-11-25); RW Emil Oksanen (10-11-21); C Sam Steel (4-14-18)
Leading goaltender: Tyler Brown (14 GP, 8-3-2-0, 2.77 GAA, .898 SV%)
Power play: Third – 29.1 per cent
Penalty kill: 20th – 71.8 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: LW Austin Wagner (upper body, week-to-week)
Sept. 29 – Regina 4 Moose Jaw 5 (OT)
Nov. 10 – Moose Jaw at Regina*
Nov. 12 – Regina at Moose Jaw
Jan. 19 – Moose Jaw at Regina*
Feb. 14 – Moose Jaw at Regina
Feb. 16 – Regina at Moose Jaw
Feb. 18 – Moose Jaw at Regina
Feb. 24 – Regina at Moose Jaw*
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast.