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 Moose Jaw Warriors

How They Got Here: Moose Jaw Warriors Prep for First-Ever Appearance at Memorial Cup

May 21, 2024 - Western Hockey League (WHL)
Moose Jaw Warriors News Release


Ahead of the Moose Jaw Warriors' first-ever appearance at the Memorial Cup, the Western Hockey League is taking a look back at how the historic squad arrived at this opportunity ahead of puck drop against the host Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League on Friday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. MST at the DOW Event Center.

Saginaw, Mich.- Standing on the ice of the Moose Jaw Events Centre and basking in the afterglow of the Warriors' championship-clinching win over the Portland Winterhawks, Head Coach Mark O'Leary emphasized his belief in building up big moments for his team.

"I trust them," O'Leary said. "You work all year, you work over the course of four years for the moment right now. It's not the time to run away from it or try to treat it like any other game. You've earned the opportunity to be here and win this game."

O'Leary, now in his fifth season as the team's Head Coach, will continue to navigate uncharted territory with the Warriors as the squad prepares for its Memorial Cup debut.

"We can't wait," he added with a grin.

The Warriors battled through the 2024 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien with a formidable 16-1-3-0 record.

Moose Jaw made quick work of Brandon in the first round, dispatching the Wheat Kings in four straight games.

Buffalo Sabres prospect Matthew Savoie led all skaters with five goals, three assists and a +3 rating in the series.

Moose Jaw was brought back down to earth by the Swift Current Broncos, who dished their Saskatchewan Rivals a 7-2 loss in the first game of their second-round series.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal would stand as Moose Jaw's only regulation loss of the postseason.

Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Denton Mateychuk made a huge statement in Game 2, recording a goal and five assists in a 7-2 drubbing of the Broncos and coming within one point of tying the WHL record for points by a defenceman in a single playoff game.

The Warriors Captain led the league in points with 19 entering the Conference Championships.

This set the stage for the first all-Saskatchewan Eastern Conference Championship since 1993, with the Warriors battling the regular-season champion Saskatoon Blades.

The frenetic series saw a WHL-record six of seven matches require overtime.

"We're always in a game, never out of it," Savoie said of the instantly iconic series. "The Saskatoon series, I think it's the toughest series I've ever played in."

17-year-old Lynden Lakovic played hero with extra-time snipes in Games 6 and 7, sending the Warriors to the WHL Championship Series for the first time since 2006.

The West Kelowna, B.C. product would close out the postseason tied for the league lead in game-winning goals with four- three of which came in overtime.

Moose Jaw clinched the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time in franchise history with a 4-0 sweep of the Western Conference Champion Portland Winterhawks in the final round, though players and coaches will tell you the showdown was much closer than the series score indicates.

Mateychuk was named the WHL Playoff Most Valuable Player after potting a team-leading three goals in the Championship to finish second in points with 11 goals and 19 assists in 20 postseason matches.

Mateychuk, Firkus and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Brayden Yager wrapped up playoffs ranked first, second and third in WHL postseason scoring.

"We've grown up together," Firkus said post-Championship victory. "A lot of us have been together since we were 15 years old. It just means the world to all of us- and especially the city of Moose Jaw."

WHL Goaltender of the Year nominee Jackson Unger played every game for the Warriors, finishing with a 16-1-2-0-0 record, a 2.90 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

The 6-foot-1 netminder is ranked 27th among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting in the agency's final rankings ahead of the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.

The Warriors have now won 26 of their last 33 games, with only three regulation-time losses dating back to February 3.

In the regular season, Moose Jaw finished second in points in the Eastern Conference with a 44-21-0-3 record and consistently ranked among the top-scoring teams in the league, averaging 4.36 goals per game in the regular season and a near-identical 4.35 goals-per-game in the playoffs.

The Warriors' big guns also clinched major WHL Awards and are moving on as league nominees for the CHL Awards.

Firkus claimed WHL Player of the Year honours- and was named the CHL's top scorer- after a monster 61-goal, 65-assist regular season.

The Irma, Alta. product had more games where he netted a hat trick (six) than nights where he was held off the scoresheet (four).

Mateychuk was named WHL Defenceman of the Year after breaking the Warriors' franchise record for career points by a defenceman (215) and embarking on a staggering 23-game point streak that saw him tally six goals and 29 helpers to kick off the season.

Yager was awarded the Brad Hornung Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Most Sportsmanlike Player for a second straight season.

The former WHL and CHL Rookie of the Year eclipsed 30 goals for the second time in his career while being dinged for only 20 penalty minutes in 57 games.

Moose Jaw will hunt for its first-ever victory in the Memorial Cup's round-robin round when they hit the ice against the host Saginaw Spirit at the DOW Event Center in Saginaw, Mich. on Friday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. MST.

A WHL team has not lifted the Memorial Cup since the Edmonton Oil Kings prevailed as CHL Champions in 2014.

Every 2024 Memorial Cup match will air on TSN and RDS in Canada and be livestreamed on TSN.ca, the TSN app, RDS.ca, and the RDS app.

For fans in the United States, the 2024 Memorial Cup will be available on the NHL Network.

Outside of North America, fans can catch every second of the action on CHL TV.

STAT PACK

Moose Jaw Warriors

Regular Season Record 44-21-0-3 (2nd East)

Playoff Record 16-1-3-0

Playoff Leaders Jagger Firkus (14G, 18A, 32PTS)

Denton Mateychuk (11G, 19A, 30PTS)

Brayden Yager (11G, 16A, 27PTS)

Season Leaders Jagger Firkus (61G, 65A, 126PTS)

Atley Calvert (47G, 48A, 95PTS)

Brayden Yager (35G, 60A, 95PTS)

Leading Goaltender (Playoffs) Jackson Unger (16-1-2-0, 2.90, .910)

Powerplay (Playoffs) 20.7% (9th)

Penalty Kill (Playoffs) 82.9% (4th)

Last Memorial Cup Appearance -

MEMORIAL CUP ROUND-ROBIN SCHEDULE

DATE AWAY HOME TIME LOCATION

Friday, May 24 Moose Jaw Warriors Saginaw Spirit 5:30 p.m. MST DOW Event Center

Monday, May 27 London Knights Moose Jaw Warriors 5:30 p.m. MST DOW Event Center

Tuesday, May 28 Drummondville Voltigeurs Moose Jaw Warriors 5:30 p.m. MST DOW Event Center

Tie-Breaker (*if necessary) - Thursday, May 30 (5:30 p.m. MST)

Semi-Final - Friday, May 31 (5:30 p.m. MST)

Championship Final - Sunday, June 2 (5:30 p.m. MST)


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