Warriors, Pats battle for positioning in WHL in 30 action
Regina Pats (29-24-5-1) at Moose Jaw Warriors (43-9-1-2)
Saturday, February 17 –Shaw TV 12 p.m. (Mountain)
With a month to go until the conclusion of the 2017 Western Hockey League regular season, positioning is still at the forefront of every team in the hunt for the playoffs, whether they be first or battling for a wild card spot.
The Warriors sit first in the WHL and have been the second-ranked team in the CHL Top 10 Rankings for the past few weeks. A four-game wining streak and a 8-2 run in their last 10 has continued to fend off any and all challengers that have come for their title. Wednesday marked another point of pride for the club as they became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot.
On the Pats’ end, they enter play this weekend one point behind the Brandon Wheat Kings for third in the division. A 5-4-0-1 stretch in their last 10 has kept them in the top wild card spot, but also helped them cut down the difference between them and Brandon.
As the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup hosts have 13 games left in their regular season, the club still looks to be finding the consistency they’ll need in May, but still possess a highly-offensive squad that can strike at any moment.
The Warriors have defeated the Pats in all five meetings this season.
Overage forward Cameron Hebig (Edmonton Oilers) is four goals shy of 100 for his WHL career and is one away from his first career 40-goal season. Given that he had to miss the entirety of the 2016-17 WHL season due to injury, we may never truly appreciate how much of an offensive impact Hebig could’ve had in the league, but it’ll be a project we’ll be able to watch with keen interest for the remainder of the season and into his time in the professional ranks for years to come. He has 10 multi-goal games this season, including two hat tricks.
Matt Bradley has surpassed the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his WHL career and the overage forward from Surrey, B.C. will set a career-high once he scored two more goals.
Pats defenceman Josh Mahura (Anaheim Ducks) sits second in the WHL for goals by a defenceman with 19 and has already surpassed last year’s career-high of 17 goals. His 57 points (19G-38A) in 48 games is the fourth-best figure among WHL defencemen.
Captain Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks) will enter the weekend seven points away from recording his third straight season of 70 or more points.
The Warriors’ offence certainly hasn’t taken a dip with a league-leading 261 goals, but of the surprising goal droughts belongs to defenceman Kale Clague (Los Angeles Kings). He has 14 points in 12 games, all assists, but has yet to score for his new team and hasn’t scored since Oct. 20 when he tallied a hat trick for the Brandon Wheat Kings against the Vancouver Giants.
Brody Willms was named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week on Tuesday and has been absolutely spectacular in February with a 3-1-0-0 record, 1.26 goals-against-average, and .949 save percentage with two shutouts. He’ll be playing in his 43rd game of the season Friday night, looking to earn his seventh career victory against the Pats. He’s 6-1-1-0 in eight games all-time.
Enough eyes will be on the top two offensive threats for the Warriors, Brayden Burke and Jayden Halbgewachs (San Jose Sharks), that it’s worth looking at two of the team’s other offensive options up front. Justin Almeida has had a breakout campaign with 73 points (30G-43A) in 55 games. A first-round pick from the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, Almeida has 88 points (37G-51A) in 88 games with the Warriors and he done his job of making the Warriors more than just a one-line team.
It is worth noting though that Halbgewachs is entering the game one point shy of 250 for his WHL career. He has 249 points (122G-127A) in 259 games with the Warriors.
This week’s WHL in 30 matchup will also serve as a milestone moment for Tanner Jeannot as he plays in his 250th career WHL game. He was held pointless in the first two games of the season series between the Pats and Warriors, but has since tallied six points (4G-2A) in the next three games.
***PLEASE NOTE: WHL in 30 is a condensed format, 30-minute broadcast of the WHL Game of the Week, airing the day after the game is originally played.