Warriors start season off at 2-0
The Saddle Lake Warriors opened the 2013-14 North East Alberta Junior B Hockey League this weekend with a bang, picking up a pair of wins over the Onion Lake Border Chiefs and the Vegreville Rangers.
“It’s great, especially going 2-0. The locker room is great, practices are fun because we’re winning. We definitely have a solid team, we’ve got a lot of rookies and they’re really good, they’re good kids and they flow together,” said Warriors goaltender Dyllon Laboucan. “We feel confident, it’s obviously a good feeling coming off two wins in the first two games.”
After a convincing 6-2 victory over the Border Chiefs on Friday night, the Warriors fought through some adversity to claim a 6-5 shootout victory over the Rangers on Saturday.
“We’re miles ahead from where we were last season,” said Warriors assistant coach Ben Ross. “I guess the biggest improvement was in our coaching, we got a new head coach in Terry Ewasiuk.”
It was the first meeting between the Rangers and Warriors since Saddle Lake ousted Vegreville in Game 7 of the opening round of last year's playoffs, and the two jumped right back into things in a highly physical and offensive affair.
“When we were coming to this game we knew that they were going to come out swinging, especially because of last year,” said Laboucan, adding that the relationship between the Warriors and Rangers has evolved into a rivalry. “It was a really good game. They came out hard but we bounced back when they got up on us . . . I definitely think they’ve become our new rivals.”
While Vegreville jumped ahead 3-2 after the first period, the Warriors knotted things up at four heading into the third frame, and after 60 minutes the game sat deadlocked, 5-5.
After five minutes of four-on-four and three-on-three solved nothing, the game moved into the league's first shootout of the season. While the Rangers jumped ahead of the Warriors in the early stages of the shootout, Jojo White evened things up for Saddle Lake to push the shootout past three rounds.
Still even in the sixth round, Barry Partridge stepped up and slipped the game winning puck between the legs of Sam Bohaychuk, lifting the Warriors to a 2-0 start to the season.
“It felt really great. Last year my shootouts weren’t that great but this year I’ve been stepping it up for the team, and I got the team pretty excited tonight,” said Partridge, adding that new head coach and general manager Terry Ewasiuk has brought a positive change behind the bench to kick off this season. “He’s been talking to us a lot. He’s a really good coach and he’s been teaching us a lot, we’re still learning and he knows a lot of things.”
Laboucan agreed, saying that Ewasiuk, who was unable to attend Saturday’s game, has a wealth of experience will be a key factor for the Warriors this season.
“He’s great, he’s coached on pretty much every level and won at every one,” said Laboucan. “He definitely knows what he’s doing, he knows how to work with the guys and keep them calm.”
The Warriors will host the Lloydminster Bandits at Manitou Kihew Arena on Friday night at 8 p.m., before entering Clancy Richard Arena in St. Paul on Saturday to face off against the Canadiens at 8 p.m.
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