Warriors still in playoffs after gutsy Game 4 effort
By Matthew Gourlie, Moose Jaw Times-Herald
April 26, 2012
With their captain in the hospital, the Moose Jaw Warriors stayed alive Wednesday night.
Kendall McFaull had an emergency appendectomy before the game started, but the Warriors rallied with a 5-1 victory in Game 4 of the Western Hockey League's best-of-seven Eastern Conference final to stave off elimination.
Game 5 will be played Friday night in Edmonton with the Oil Kings enjoying a 3-1 series lead.
"I found out in the morning,'' Dylan McIlrath, McFaull's defence partner, said about the medical news. "It was a surprise because he played pretty well (Tuesday) and felt pretty good after the game. It was a tough loss."
Needing a spark, the Warriors turned to affiliate goalie Justin Paulic and gave him his second career WHL start. The 16-year-old rookie - who hadn't even dressed in the playoffs - stayed perfect in his WHL career as he made 28 saves.
"It was a tough decision to make. You've got a couple of guys who were disappointed," said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers.
"Part of coaching is making some tough decisions. You're not going to make everybody happy. We have 27 guys. Everybody wants to play. A decision was made for the benefit of the whole team as a collective group."
Paulic saved his best work for the third period when the Oil Kings earned three power plays in the first half of the period and threw 15 shots at him.
He made a great pad save in close off of Curtis Lazar and then dove across the crease to pull Martin Gernat's shot off of the line with his glove.
Paulic robbed Michael St. Croix with four minutes left with a pad save.
"I was nervous, but the whole day I was telling myself to stay focused and keep my head in the game," said Paulic.
"The Warriors made it easy for me. They blocked shots. They didn't let any cross-ice passes through and cleared all of my rebounds. I owe it all to them."
Paulic wasn't the only change. The Warriors also inserted forwards Torrin White and Carter Hansen in exchange for Justin Kirsch and Andrew Johnson. Brayden Doucette came in on defence for McFaull.
The Warriors earned their first lead of the series when Brayden Point finished a great pass from Morgan Rielly on their first power play of the game.
The Warriors doubled their lead with 5: 13 left in the first period when Cody Beach waited for traffic to arrive at the net. Tanner Eberle went hard to the net and Cam Braes was wide open to bang the rebound home.
Beach continued to be a pest as he took a run at Griffin Reinhart in the dying seconds. That allowed the Warriors to hold the zone before Beach earned a turnover behind the Oil Kings net. When Ashton Sautner and Mitchell Moroz both went to hit Beach behind the net, he made a backhand pass in front to Kenton Miller, who scored with 2.7 seconds left in the opening frame.
"They got a really good effort in net from the young kid and they played with a lot more urgency,'' Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said after his team's winning streak, which dated back to the regular season, was snapped at 22 games.
"Obviously it's an elimination game for them. They deserved the win and we didn't. It's that plain and simple.''
The Warriors went ahead 4-0 when Miller scored his second of the night before Tyler Maxwell finished off a nice pass from Stephane Legault to cut into the Warriors' lead.
James Henry iced the game for the Warriors with an empty-net goal with 2: 25 left before 4,622 spectators at Mosaic Place.
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