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Game 3 reaction: Another overtime win gives Warriors a chance to clinch WHL title Wednesday

Warriors staying focussed on task at hand with history a single victory away thanks to 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 at Moose Jaw Events Centre
The Moose Jaw Warriors pour off the bench to celebrate after Brayden Schuurman’s overtime game winner.

MOOSEJAW TODAY.COM -- With the way things have gone for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2024 Western Hockey League postseason, it only seemed to make sense that at least one of their games in the WHL Final would go to overtime.

Game 3 on Tuesday night was that game, and thanks to Brayden Schuurman’s winner 2:20 into extra time, the Warriors are now one win away from hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions for the first time in team history.

The Warriors hold a three-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 on Wednesday night at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

As well as things turned out for his crew, Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary would have liked to have seen a cleaner game given how high the stakes are at this point.

“I thought it was kind of a sloppy game to be honest,” he said. “I thought our effort was there, but the play with the puck, whether it was the ice conditions or not,  we were a little bit separated. As the game went on I thought we got a bit better in that aspect, but I think tomorrow we’ll be much better in terms of getting back to checking hard and being around the puck with numbers. It was a gutsy performance for sure to find a way to win.”

Finding gutsy ways to score goals has been a hallmark of the Warriors' third line throughout the playoffs, and they chipped in twice Tuesday. The first came when Rilen Kovacevic set up Lucas Brenton for the opening marker 4:22 into the game, and the second in OT when Ethan Semeniuk got the puck to Kovacevic for a shot that went off the crossbar before Schuurman buried the rebound.

“Contributions in any way up and down our lineup are huge,” Schuurman said when asked about the team’s depth once again shining through. “If it’s not a goal from our line, maybe we’re really good defensively. Contributing in different ways from our line is always important in the playoffs.”
Warriors captain Denton Mateychuk had a brilliant effort of his own, scoring twice in the second period as Moose Jaw overcame a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 lead into the final frame.

While they weren’t able to make that lead stick, finding a way to win in overtime for the third straight time was just a matter of sticking to what works.

“We’ve been in that situation before, obviously not against Portland, but we know we can win in those situations,” Mateychuk said. “Going into overtime tonight that helped us and we had a sense of calmness going into that overtime period.”

The Warriors went into the contest expecting a pushback from Portland and got exactly that, which made the win all the more impressive in Mateychuk’s eyes.

“I think they came out strong tonight and we didn’t shy away at all,” he said. “It was a solid effort and it wasn’t always in our favour but we found a way to get the job done.”

Portland head coach Mike Johnston was happy to see his team get the response they needed to get back in the series, even if the end result wasn’t there.

“I liked the way we played tonight,” Johnston said. “The first game was tight, it was a 2-2 game and they get the late goal, then the second one, the fourth goal was the key goal because it was a close game up until that point. So it’s two good teams, there’s not a lot of room or space out there, there are some really good battles. But I thought tonight we had a good game from start to finish.”

Now, all eyes in Moose Jaw will be on the MJEC on Wednesday night. The Ed Chynoweth Cup will be in the building and it’s there for the Warriors’ taking should things go as well for the local squad as they have all series.

“I think it’s just stay present in the moment and don’t get too far ahead of ourselves,
O’Leary said when asked how they finish it off. “We know it’s the hardest one to win, we know who we’re playing and it’s a heck of a hockey team over there and they’re not going away. So we’ll get their best effort and have the same kind of mindset we always have and just make sure that they see ours.”

Game time is 8 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.