The rivalry between the St. Paul Canadiens and the Saddle Lake Warriors has been reignited.
The two faced off in a home-and-home on Thanksgiving weekend that saw both teams take advantage in their own barn, with the Canadiens winning 3-2 in St. Paul on Friday, and the Warriors taking it 4-2 on Saturday.
“It’s a big stepping stone. It’s setting positive vibes in the dressing room and we’re going to build on that,” said Warriors captain Cole Steinhauer, who noted that frustration took its toll in the Friday night match-up.
“There were a lot of mixed emotions as we were all trying to get on each other’s nerves. Obviously (Saturday) we changed that around. We started off with a great warm-up that just carried on into the game. We’re starting to play the full sixty minutes.”
While both games were hard-fought and quite chippy at times, over-aggression came second to discipline as each team picked up their first win in front of their own fans while keeping their heads about themselves.
“It’s just part of hockey, but I’m glad everybody kept their head and didn’t do anything stupid or foolish out there and just kept battling,” Canadiens head coach Joe Young said of the gritty play. “I think what we take out of tonight is that you just don’t give up, no matter what position we’re in during the game, if we’re absolutely exhausted or they’re taking it to us, you’ve got to keep working your hardest, plain and simple.”
In the first match-up on Friday night, the Canadiens bounced back from the previous week’s 9-0 loss to the Lloydminster Bandits with a commanding first period that saw them get up on the board 2-0 with goals from Jalel Abougouche and Tanner Cunningham.
Saddle Lake came out strong in the second to make it a game however, as Brandon Cantre cut St. Paul’s lead to one at the midway point of the period and then Barry Partridge made good on a breakaway opportunity in the third, beating Canadiens net-minder Austin Rediron five hole to tie things up.
Rediron kept his team in the running after the goal, stopping another late breakaway prior to the Canadiens’ game winner.
With the game on the line, it was the Canadiens who reigned supreme, as Tyson Bannerman banged in a rebound on a shot from Jamie Wozniak to give his team the winning goal.
While Rediron allowed five goals in the two games, he displayed a great deal of poise and determination between the posts, with Young referring to him as “our top, if not the top, goalie in this league.”
The rivals regrouped and met up the following evening at Manitou Kehiw Arena, and the Warriors were set on coming out stronger.
“(Friday) in the first period, we weren’t ready,” said Warriors head coach Darryl Buck, who noted that game preparation is what gave them the edge heading into Saturday. “It starts in warm-up, it starts before the game even starts, getting there early and getting your mind on the game. It’s all part of game preparation.”
After a scoreless first period, the Warriors came out hard in the second. Four minutes in, Tyler Haineault fired home a one timer from the top of the circle on a swift pass from Trent Makokis, beating Rediron over the shoulder. Only 17 seconds later, Haineault set up Dallas Desjarlais who slotted the puck past Rediron to give Saddle Lake the two goal lead.
With just over four minutes remaining in the second period, Cunningham sniped a wrist shot from the slot over the arm of Warriors net-minder Dyllon Laboucan to cut the lead down to one.
Desjarlais added his second of the night with seven minutes left on the clock, but Cunningham matched the feat for St. Paul, notching his second goal in the game and cutting the lead to one with just over two minutes left to play.
While the Canadiens pressed, the Warriors were just too strong in their own house and Partridge added an empty net goal with one second left in regulation to seal the game.
“They’re all going to be close. St. Paul’s not going to come in and give us anything, we’re not going to give them anything. It’s going to be a fight to the end,” said Warriors head coach Darryl Buck.
Warriors captain Steinhauer agreed that the rivalry has been reignited, while the team’s new defenseman Dylon Maton, who played his first two games with Saddle Lake against the Canadiens over Thanksgiving weekend, said he was pleased to see the level of intensity between the age-old rivals.
“It was good. I like that kind of hockey, the back and forth and the close games,” Maton said. “Blowouts are okay every now and then if you get some points, but hockey is all about the one goal games and getting a good win. It brings the team together and everyone feels good after a win like that.”
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