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After success in Game 2, Warriors look to keep rolling when series resumes Tuesday

Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal moves on to Swift Current for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday night
The Moose Jaw Warriors got the job done in Game 2, and will need more of the same to succeed in the rest of the series.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- Throughout the second half of the 2023-24 season, the Moose Jaw Warriors were the kind of team that had all sorts of resiliency.

Only twice did they lose back-to-back games after the trade deadline on Jan. 10, and three of their six losses in that span came in a three-game mini-skid just before they hit the road for their U.S. Division road trip.

You don’t have that happen without being able to bounce back from a tough defeat, and the Warriors did just that in Game 2 of their best-of-seven Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal against the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday night.

With their 7-2 victory at the Moose Jaw Events Centre, the series is now tied at a game apiece, with the action now moving on to Swift Current for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Like every Warriors supporter in the Hangar on Saturday night, head coach Mark O’Leary was impressed with what he saw from his troops and gave credit to his players for bringing a vastly improved game in crucial circumstances.

“I don’t think it’s anything that I’m saying, it’s all from within,” O’Leary said when asked what was said to help the team rebound from Game 1. “They do a great job of communicating in the dressing room and a big part of that is the leadership we have. Guys that have been through it and been through it together. The big thing is the confidence we have in them that they’re going to figure it out.”

A big part of that is leadership both in the dressing room and on the ice, and on Saturday, the Warriors had that in spades from captain Denton Mateychuk.

The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect set a Warriors modern-day playoffs record with six points in the game, recording a goal and five assists to take over the WHL scoring lead with 14 points in six outings.

Brayden Yager had a spectacular night of his own with a hat trick and five points and is now tied for seventh in league scoring with six goals and 10 points. The players he’s tied with? Warriors forwards Matthew Savoie (5-5-5-10) and Jagger Firkus (6-4-6-10), with the former picking up two assists Saturday and the latter scoring the Warriors’ fourth goal.

In other words, the team’s top players came to play and then some in Game 2, getting their biggest win of the season thus far.

“It’s really important,” Mateychuk said. “You don’t want to get down on yourself, you have to ride the highs and lows and realize it’s not going to be perfect all the time. You’re playing the same team for possibly seven games, so you have to be able to adapt. 

“We took (Friday)  night and reflected on it and then came out (Saturday) a different team.”

Now, they get to do it all in Swift Current beginning Tuesday night.

Broncos fans did their job supporting their team in Moose Jaw in the first two games, and the Warriors will be expecting a loud crowd when the puck drops in Game 3.

Just don’t expect them to be intimidated in any fashion.

“Their crowd is going to be crazy, they were loud tonight and last night, it’ll be like last season in Lethbridge when it was nutso,” Mateychuk said. “We’ve all played in away games like that before, nothing changes and we’ll be alright.”

As for what they’ll have to do on the ice to find a win, that’s relatively simple to figure out.

“Rinse and repeat,” O'Leary said. “You see what went well and what contributed to the success and what didn’t go well and you have to reset, it’s no different than any other game. We talk about how after a loss, there’s no momentum from game to game. Every game is a new animal and we’ll need to play just as well on Tuesday.’