Tribe turns it around

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

When the Calgary Hitmen loaded up for a playoff run at last year's WHL trade deadline, it came at the expense of Brendan Rowinski.

The Hitmen received 53-goal man Joel Broda.

Rowinski was sent from a team with its sights set on the Memorial Cup to a Moose Jaw Warriors team that was firmly entrenched in the league's basement.

Tribe head coach Dave Hunchak said it took awhile for Rowinski to accept his new situation.

"Brendan came last year, and he didn't really let Calgary go," Hunchak said. "Can you blame him for that? No, you can't. He came from a team that was a legitimate Memorial Cup contender to a team that was rebuilding.

"But he had a real good summer. He realized where he was at in his career. He's not a long-tooth by any stretch of the imagination, but when it comes to junior hockey, he's getting up there. He knew he was in the downslope of his career and he hadn't really accomplished anything. He's worked hard and has been a great leader, and the offence speaks for itself."

Rowinski leads the Warriors with 26 goals this season and has played a large role in helping the team turn its fortunes around.

The Winnipeg product, who is averaging better than a point per game, said his confidence is at an all-time high.

"I don't know if I expected this, but I tried to prepare for it the best I could in the summer," Rowinski said. "I think it's paid off. I knew I could do it, and, after the first couple weeks of the season, I had the confidence I needed."

At 25-17-5, the Warriors have long-since surpassed last year's point totals, when they finished a league-worst 19-50-3.

Hunchak credits his players' patience for the dramatic turnaround this season.

"Winning is always fun -- there's no questioning that," Hunchak said. "I put all the credit with the players.

"They understood what we were doing last year and that in order for us to get to where we want to get to, it was going to be a process.

"So, as for the turnaround, the players have bought into what we're trying to do."

Most junior hockey franchises work on a cyclical basis.

Last season was clearly the down cycle for the Saskatchewan club, but the Warriors re-stocked the cupboards with young talent that should pay dividends for years to come.

"We're still a young group, but we've established depth on our list because of the last two drafts," Hunchak said. "Every organization goes through it. At some point, Vancouver is going to go through it, and Calgary will, too.

"We didn't make a lot of changes at the deadline this year because we believe in the group we've got. It's a team that competes really hard. The accountability within our room is tremendous.

"When you can breed that into your young guys and establish that culture within your group, that carries on for years and years. That's why I believe the Calgarys, Vancouvers, Medicine Hats and Kelownas of the world are as successful as they are."

Veteran forward Jason Bast has experienced both extremes with the Warriors.

He was a rookie when Moose Jaw went to the WHL final in the spring of 2006.

The fifth-year player is the club's captain and lone remaining player from the '06 Eastern Conference championship squad.

He said he's thankful the rebuilding process was a quick one.

"Last year was a tough year," Bast said. "It's something none of us want to go through again. That gave us more motivation to make sure it didn't happen again.

"I think it's the experience factor. We were a pretty young team last year. We made bad mistakes at the wrong times. But this year, we're more experienced."

Rowinski agreed.

"It makes it a lot easier to come to the rink every day," Rowinski said. "Right now, it's really fun, and that's what happens when you're winning."

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA

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GO FIGURE

PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME

25,000

The amount of money donated by Gord Broda, father of Calgary Hitmen forward Joel Broda, to the Haiti relief fund. The Hitmen also raised $7,975 for the cause through 50/50 sales.

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THREE STARS

THIS WEEK'S TOP PERFORMERS

1. C Scott Glennie, Wheaties -- Potted two goals and seven points in three games.

2. G Ian Curtis, Winterhawks -- Turned aside 80 of 82 shots in pair of wins.

3. RW Brandon Kozun, Hitmen -- Scored twice and added five helpers in 3-0 week.


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