The Warriors looked near their best on Saturday, playing skilled and speedy but also smart hockey. They also brought a pretty good 60 minutes to the table, leading to a 5-1 triumph over Langley.
Shots counted 13-4 in the opening period, and I would imagine that scoring chances were just as lopsided. Making his first start against the Warriors, Steve Myland actually really impressed in this game, particularly early. The former Warrior made a bunch of strong saves, including a flurry of stops on Carl Hesler and a few more dandies. The dam finally burst nearly 17 minutes in when Jason Cotton gusted up the left and slipped a change-up into the bottom right corner. Jordan Masters lifted a rebound over Myland after some more strong pressure two minutes later to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead in the first intermission.
Langley had a better start to the second period, but for the most part the puck continued to spend most of its time in Rivermen territory. The ‘Men had a couple of powerplay opportunities, but ended up in a deeper hole after Reid Simmonds earned an impressive assist on a Matt Anholt shorty. Andy Desautels also put his stamp on the game with one of the best glove saves you’ll see to rob Mitch McLain shortly after the Anholt tally.
Up 3-0 after 40, the Warriors made another positive step forward when Seb Lloyd buried a Masters feed for a powerplay goal (WK was 1/6 on the night) early in the third.
The Rivermen would ruin Desautels’ shutout bid when Jakob Reichert scored a PPG midway through the third period. But the goal was a token gesture (and stat buster) only, with Reid Simmonds punctuating a strong outing with his 6th of the year in the final minute of play.
Overall, it was a terrific showing for the Tribe and something that should give fans good reason for optimism. Were the Rivermen at their best in this game? Well, maybe not. They probably weren’t as good as they were in their OT win a month ago, or as good as they were Friday in Pen.
But the Warriors also have the kind of group that, when playing like it can, can dissect teams like Langley that are on the bigger, slower end of the spectrum. The Warriors outskated and outpassed Langley all night, and that was enough to win.
However, I would go further and suggest that West K also outworked the ‘Men, and that may be why it turned from victory to comprehensive victory.
The coaching staff shook things up before this contest by revamping the forward lines, a trick that seems (so far) to have worked out beautifully. The guys had a lot of jump all night, but also seemed to be finding good chemistry right away. The most impressive line on this night was probably Cotton/Lloyd/Simmonds, though it would be unfair to dismiss the rest of the groups. Anholt/Hesler/Masters chipped in two goals, Dallman/Blackburn/Pope was both smart and dangerous, and Osczevski/Mennear/Hope spent their time up-ice and drew a couple of penalties to boot.
And of course, it would be unfair of me to shower praise on the forwards without paying tribute to a D-corps that (without the injured Ryan Ivey) didn’t allow an even-strength goal all night.
The victory was a solid team effort, and a wonderfully positive way to end what’s been a difficult month of November.
Stay tuned for any news coming out of the December 1st carding/trading deadline.