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 Moose Jaw Warriors

Five Moments That Defined the Moose Jaw Warriors' Season

May 28, 2024 - Western Hockey League (WHL)
Moose Jaw Warriors News Release

Saginaw, Mich. - As the Moose Jaw Warriors prepare to take on the QMJHL Champion Drummondville Voltigeurs on Tuesday night with a berth in the Memorial Cup semifinal on the line, we're taking a look back at five key moments that helped lead Moose Jaw to a historic first WHL title and a chance for glory in Saginaw.

The people and games we've highlighted are listed in chronological order.

Gone streakin': Mateychuk undeniable in first half of the season

If his litany of dead-serious player headshots didn't already let you know that Denton Mateychuk means business, his massive point streak to start the 2023-24 WHL season left no doubt.

From October 10, 2023, to December 8, 2023, the Warriors Captain amassed six goals and 29 helpers over 23 straight games

The impressive run stands as the second-longest point streak of the WHL season and the third-longest streak by any CHL skater in 2023-24.

Again, he's doing this as a defenceman.

The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect closed out the regular season with a career-best 75 points in 52 games, growing his career total to 41 goals and174 assists for 215 points in 203 regular-season games with Moose Jaw to set a new franchise record for points by a defenceman on March 17, 2024.

Of course, Mateychuk would be rewarded with a WHL Championship and WHL Defenceman of the Year honours for his efforts.

January 4, 2024: Warriors acquire Matthew Savoie in blockbuster deal

As Canada exited the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championships, rumbles spread around the hockey world that Wenatchee Wild stars Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie, both highly-touted NHL prospects, could be on the move.

Finally, on January 4, Warriors General Manager Jason Ripplinger made it official.

In exchange for seven picks in the WHL Prospects Draft, including first-round selections in 2024 and 2027, Matthew Savoie was moving East to join the team he had helped to knock out of playoffs for the past two seasons.

The Buffalo Sabres prospect would pot 19 goals and 38 assists for 47 points in 23 regular season games as a Warrior, leading the league with more than two points per game and only missing the scoresheet once.

Savoie, who turned 20 in January, also went on an impressive 30-game point streak that saw him register 55 points between February 3, 2024, and May 5, 2024, where he was held pointless against Saskatoon in Game 7.

He brought much-needed high-pressure experience to the Warriors' dressing room after making it to the WHL Championship with Winnipeg in 2023, where they ultimately fell short of their goal.

"I'm as hungry as ever," Savoie said ahead of Game 1 against Portland. "You know you don't get too many opportunities to go to the finals to compete for a championship and play with a special group like we have here. I think our whole group is taking the moment for what it is and trying to just embrace it and have fun with it."

Break out the brooms: Warriors sweep U.S. Division Road Trip

The Warriors, while consistently one of the top teams in the WHL's East Division and a real threat post-trade deadline, weren't necessarily known for going on massive winning streaks.

They changed that narrative on an impressive run on a U.S. Division Road Trip that saw Moose Jaw go 6-0-0-0 from late February to early March.

Savoie netted two goals and three assists to open the road swing with a 9-4 drubbing of Tri-City (this would be the first of two five-point nights for Savoie on the road trip).

The pile-on continued with a 12-3 beatdown of Spokane that saw Atley Calvert net the game-winner, a shorthanded goal, and complete the hat trick while adding a pair of helpers.

The true test- and a touch of foreshadowing- came with Moose Jaw's lone regular-season meeting against the team they'd defeat in the WHL Championship, the Portland Winterhawks.

Savoie put up three points (two goals, one assist) in a 4-3 victory for the visitors.

Moose Jaw followed up the nail-biter with three games in three nights, starting with another impressive 8-7 shootout win over the surging Everett Silvertips.

Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Brayden Yager scored twice and had two assists in the win.

The Warriors closed things out with a 4-2 win over Seattle and Jackson Unger dished Wenatchee a 35-save shutout in a 4-0 win.

Atley Calvert led all skaters with six goals and nine assists for 15 points in six games on the trip.

March 17, 2024: Firkus Circus goes wild

If you ask 2024 WHL Player of the Year Jagger Firkus what night meant the most to him in a monster regular season, this is the one.

The Seattle Kraken prospect may be most excited that this was the game where fans received a bobblehead in his likeness, but it was also massively significant in the big picture.

This match turned out to be a preview of one of the most dramatic playoff series in modern WHL history, with Moose Jaw scoring six unanswered goals to double up the Saskatoon Blades, 6-3.

Firkus dazzled with a hat trick and an assist, setting a modern franchise record with his ninth career hat trick and cracking 300 career WHL points, joining Theo Fleury, Chad Hinz and Brayden Point as the only Warriors players to reach the milestone.

The Irma, Alta. product went on to capture the CHL scoring title with 126 regular season points, climbing higher up the ranks of the Warriors' record book.

With 310 regular season points (144 goals, 166 assists), Firkus is second in all-time goals and fourth in all-time points.

Firkus also holds the Moose Jaw record for playoff points (65) and goals (30).

On the brink: Warriors face elimination in Eastern Conference Championship

For a moment, Game 5 of the all-Saskatchewan Eastern Conference Championship looked like Moose Jaw's swan song.

With the regular season-leading Blades up 4-0 in the third the Warriors started to battle back.

Goals from Lucas Brenton, Jagger Firkus and a pair from Denton Mateychuk forced overtime and gave the team hope, but Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fraser Minten scored late in overtime to force Moose Jaw to the brink of elimination.

It was also the first time in the postseason that Moose Jaw had dropped back-to-back games.

"We went down multiple times in that series and we kept coming back," Warriors forward Rilen Kovacevic said in Saginaw. "Talk about Game 5, we were down four goals and come right back and make it a game go to overtime. I mean, we lost but the same thing goes for Games 6 and 7, right? Down a couple goals and we came back. So we know we can do that and we've got to bring that same standard here."

We all know how the story goes now, right?

After trailing 3-2 in a must-win Game 6, Kovacevic scored the game-tying goal to force overtime, where Lynden Lakovic tallied the winner to force a dramatic Game 7 in Saskatoon.

Moose Jaw never trailed in Game 7, though it came down to the sixth overtime game in the series, with Lakovic playing hero again to send Moose Jaw to the WHL Championship Series for the first time since 2006.

What do you think were the most important points of Moose Jaw's campaign?

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Western Hockey League Stories from May 28, 2024

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