Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Warriors becoming playoff tough in battle with Raiders

Warriors winger Tate Popple (#18) withstands punishment in front of the net.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - Getting the Prince Albert Raiders in the first round of the WHL playoffs was supposed to be a nightmare for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
    In actuality, that matchup is turning out to be what the Warriors might need.
    After finishing first in the entire WHL with a 52-15-2-3 record, the Warriors didn’t get rewarded by drawing what would typically be a weaker club in the first round of the playoffs. Due to a format where clubs play through their division, the Warriors were forced to face the Raiders, who posted a 32-27-9-4 mark during the regular season, in a best-of-seven first round series.
    The East Division that both teams play out of was viewed this season as one of the toughest divisions the league had seen in some time.
Justin Almeida cuts up ice for the Warriors.
    With the Warriors having only won one post-season series over the previous five years, a date with the hard-hitting and skilled Raiders might be the thing that prepares the Warriors for the rest of the post-season as they move into position to potentially advance to the second round.
    On Wednesday before 2,827 spectators at the Art Hauser Centre, the Warriors claimed a classic gritty playoff contest 2-0 over the host Raiders in Game 4 of their first round series. The win gives the Warriors a 3-1 lead in the set.
    The Warriors will try to close out the series in Game 5 on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw.
Winger Brayden Burke sets up in the offensive zone for the Warriors.
    In the first period of Wednesday’s clash, the Raiders came out playing in their classic style throwing a number of hits. Raiders defenceman Brayden Pachal and right-winger Carson Miller both nailed Moose Jaw left-winger Ryan Peckford with big hits. Peckford seemed to be on the receiving end of big hits at various times during the night.
    Due to the fact the Warriors have a lot of speed and skill this season, they will continually face teams in the post-season that will try to make them back down by increasing the physical intensity. The key for Moose Jaw to counter this is to play through this type of attention and not do anything dumb in the retaliation department to draw a penalty.
    Early in the second, Pachal, who stands 6-feet and weighs 195 pounds, leveled Warriors overage centre and 70-goal man Jayden Halbgewachs, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 165 pounds, with a high hit. The collision didn’t stop Halbgewachs, who topped the WHL in regular season scoring, from driving hard to the net.
Raiders winger Cole Fonstad had a goal called back.
    The odd time, the Warriors did lose their cool. In the second period, 17-year-old defenceman Jett Woo was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for knocking the stick out of the hands of Raiders rookie left-winger Justin Nachbaur.
    Those lapses were few and far between as Moose Jaw played with great composure for most of the night.
    The Warriors were finally rewarded for their resilience with 3:57 to play in the second period. Centre Justin Almeida streaked down centre towards the Prince Albert net, took a pass from a teammate at the right side boards and fired home is second goal of the post-season to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
    Defenceman Josh Brook and right-winger Brayden Burke picked up assists on the tally.
    The Raiders continued their physical play with defenceman Zack Hayes nailing Burke and Raiders centre Sean Montgomery nailing Peckford, who came up favouring his right shoulder but stayed in the game.
Jayden Halbgewachs, left, zips down the wing for the Warriors.
    After two periods, the play between the two sides was fairly even with the Raiders holding a 21-17 edge in shots on goal.
    The hosts pushed hard for the equalizer in the third, but Warriors netminder Brody Willms stood tall. He ultimately made 32 saves to earn his first career WHL post-season shutout.
    The Raiders thought they had the equalizer at the 10:24 mark of the third, when right-winger Cole Fonstad fired home a long rebound at the left side of the Moose Jaw goal. The officials had a lengthy conference and ruled Raiders defenceman Max Martin made incidental contact with Willms and disallowed the goal.
Raiders C Jordy Stallard (#19) chases a loose puck after a draw.
    The fans in attendance voiced their displeasure over the call.
    Fonstad created a tonne of offensive chances for the host all game.
    With 80 seconds to play, the Raiders pulled netminder Ian Scott for an extra attacker, but Prince Albert couldn’t final the equalizer. With 15.6 seconds remaining on the clock, Brook sent Burke into the clear on a breakaway towards the empty Prince Albert net, and Burke sealed with win with an empty-net tally.
    Scott turned away 20-of-21 shots to take the setback in goal for the Raiders.
    The Raiders with their physical play had the potential to wear down the Warriors over a long series.
Warriors D Josh Brook and G Brody Willms celebrate their team’s win.
    Now the Warriors have a chance to close out a series against a tough opponent that is playing hard, playing to win and believes they can win.
    If the Warriors can win at home on Saturday, that would set them up nicely for the second round.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to
    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.