Willms, Warriors blank Raiders 3-0 in home opener

Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Brody Willms makes a save on a shot from the Prince Albert Raiders during second period WHL action on Sept. 22, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

It was a night of firsts for Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Brody Willms: First game of the season, first start of the season and first shutout of the season.

He and the Warriors blanked the Prince Albert Raiders 3-0 in the opening game of the WHL regular season for both teams, played Friday evening at the Art Hauser Centre in front of 2,514 spectators.

“It feels good. The team played hard in front of us and we played a really good, complete game,” Willms said after the final buzzer.

His shutout was helped by a dependable Warriors defensive unit, which often blocked Raiders’ shots and foiled passing plays that the home side tried to set up.

“Our d-core is really strong this year … and they’re helping a lot back there. They’re always blocking shots or getting sticks in the lanes and deflecting passes,” he said.

Moose Jaw Warriors centre Noah Gregor looks for a pass in the Prince Albert Raiders’ zone during second period WHL action on Sept. 22, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The final shot tally at game’s end was 40 for the Warriors and 21 for the Raiders.

“I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid after the loss. “We just had a tough time scoring.

“We could have generated a few more chances, but there was way more positives than negatives. I liked our energy and our execution,” he said.

The teams skated to a 0-0 draw after the first period, which included a Warriors power play after Raiders winger Brock Sottile took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Raiders created scoring chances off of several Warriors’ turnovers in the first frame, but they couldn’t beat Willms on eight shots.

Moose Jaw drew first blood at 6:36 of the second period on a Brayden Burke goal, set up by passes from Tanner Jeannot and then Noah Gregor. Burke shot the puck top shelf on goalie Ian Scott’s glove side after a cross-ice pass from Gregor.

The Raiders only mustered four shots on goal in the second frame, while Moose Jaw peppered Scott with 14 shots.

Moose Jaw’s second goal was a deflection off the skate of a Raiders player in front of Scott, at 0:56 of the third period. Justin Almeida was credited with the score.

Fourteen seconds later, Scott went down with an injury after he appeared to overextend his right leg, trying to make a play on a shot from the Warriors.

“He moved quickly, and it’s a lower body injury. Those aren’t good on a goaltender. It’s the way it is and we’ll see how it goes,” Habscheid said.

He said he didn’t know the extent of the injury or for how long Scott will be out. “It’s just unfortunate, because I thought Scotty played well tonight.”

Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Brayden Pachal skates the puck into the Moose Jaw Warriors zone during second period WHL action on Sept. 22, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Scott was replaced by Nicholas Sanders to finish the game in net for the Raiders. He allowed one goal on the 12 shots he faced: A Jett Woo wrist shot from the top of the circle.

The Raiders made the shutout tough for Willms in the final 10 minutes of the game: A quick, Curtis Miske wrist shot clanged off the post, keeping his side off the scoreboard.

The Raiders ultimately couldn’t solve the 19-year-old net minder – or his gritty defensemen – as the final buzzer sounded.

When the teams square off again Saturday night in Moose Jaw, Habscheid said he’ll be looking for more offence from his guys.

“We gotta get a little more guys to the net, because that invites pucks to the net. If you don’t have anybody there, guys really don’t want to shoot. Goaltenders are pretty good: They’ll stop those pucks. So we have to get a few more bodies to the net,” he said.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.

@EvanRadford • sports@paherald.sk.ca