The Moose Jaw Warriors have won seven of their last eight games, and have not lost, in regulation, since November 2nd. Their Eastern Conference foe, the Lethbridge Hurricanes have decided to go for broke, and completed a trade which saw them send players and draft picks to the Regina Pats for a pair of highly touted scorers.
THE WARRIORS’ CALL
The Moose Jaw Warriors had plenty of expectations coming into this season. After finishing last season with the best record in the WHL (and second in the CHL behind Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), they were eliminated in the second round by the Swift Current Broncos, the eventual Ed Chyneworth Cup Champions. Despite losing to top scorers Jayden Halbgewachs and Brayden Burke, there was plenty of hope that the Warriors would return to the top of the standings. However, in the team’s first 12 games, they were only 5-4-3, and struggling to find the back of the net. However, the club seemed to have found their touch, and have reeled off impressive performances in the month of November. After falling to Saskatoon 5-2 on the 2nd, Moose Jaw easily handled the Kootenay Ice the following night. After losing to Central Division-leading Red Deer in overtime on the 10th, the Warriors have won six straight games. It was not like the stretch was a cake walk for the Warriors either. Three wins over Lethbridge, and a big overtime victory over Edmonton sent Moose Jaw from middle of the pack towards the top of the East Division.
Most of this run was completed without star forward Justin Almeida, who was injured in game one of the CIBC Canada/Russia Series. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect missed four games, but came back in a big way against the Edmonton Oil Kings last Friday. He had a goal and assisted on Tristin Langan’s OT winning goal. Almeida has been one of the most consistent players so far in the WHL. In only two games this season has the Kitimat, BC native been held off the score-sheet.
LANGAN SAYS HELLO
If there is a player who is need of an impressive season, it is Tristin Langan. The un-drafted overaged forward has steadily improved in his first three seasons with Moose Jaw. Except this year, he has not just improved, he has been on fire for the Warrior offense. He has scored a team-leading 39 points in his first 22 games, just three points less than his 42 than he had all last season. He sits eighth in league scoring, and eighth in goals with 18.
Moose Jaw has won eight of their last ten games, and they are going to need to carry this momentum into December. They have a few big divisional games coming up, as they are to take on Red Deer tomorrow night, and a back-to-back against Saskatoon next weekend.
LETHBRIDGE ADDS EVEN MORE OFFENCE
The Hurricanes were another team that was expected to come out of the gates strong this season. Last season they waltzed through the first two rounds before meeting Swift Current in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell to the Broncos in six games. Through the first two months of the season, they were at a respectable 7-4-1-2. Since the start of November, however, they have only been a .500 club. In their last 10 games, they are 4-4-2 and have left the front office wondering what needs to change. At the moment, the Hurricanes are tied for fourth in the league in goals-for with 95. With an offensive attack led by Jordy Bellerive and tier one prospect, Dylan Cozens, it makes sense why the ‘Canes are feared by most defensive units in the WHL. Their true weak spot has been on the other side of the ice. They have given up as many goals as they have scored (95), which puts them sixth-worst in the league in that category. Net-minders, Reece Klassen and Carl Tetachuk have been sub-par to say the least, with both of their GAAs well above three.
So, what did GM Peter Anholt decide was best to help his team get back on track? More scoring. This was confirmed after the Hurricanes completed a trade with the Regina Pats Thursday morning. The Hurricanes acquired top scoring forwards Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry. Both forwards were key parts to Regina’s success last season. Henry’s five goals in last spring’s Memorial Cup was tied for most in the tournament. In addition, he is seventh in the WHL in points (40) and assists (25). The Colorado Avalanche prospect has been far and away the best Pat this season, and is leading the Hurricanes in scoring. Henry is truly a great playmaker, with an excellent scoring touch, he will be a perfect winger on Lethbridge’s top line.
On the other hand, Leschyshyn, a Vegas Golden Knights draft pick, is really starting to blossom as a top centre. The Saskatoon native has scored 40 points in each of the last two seasons. This year, he is on pace for almost 80. A player who can put the puck in the net, just as often as he can dish the puck off, he will only add to the plethora of talent down the middle in Lethbridge.
The future remains to be foreseen for the ‘Canes, but with the added talent to an already dominant offense, Lethbridge is setting themselves up to be a true contender in the East.
stats from whl.ca