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Warriors aiming to wrap up first WHL championship in team history tonight

Focus on ‘just another’ game paramount heading into Wednesday night’s contest; ice issues from Game 3 expected to be dealt with
The Ed Chynoweth Cup is in the Moose Jaw Events Centre for Game 4 of the Western Hockey League Championship Final on Wednesday night.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- The Moose Jaw Warriors could be mere hours away from hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup as Western Hockey League champions for the first time in team history.

But to see members of the team during post-game interviews on Tuesday night after their 4-3 overtime win in Game 3, you’d never know it.

No, the Warriors were the face of calm determination when facing the media, as has been the case throughout the playoffs. Even now, with the team on the cusp of the greatest accomplishment in their 40-year history, captain Denton Mateychuk says it’s just another game tonight when the Warriors take on the Portland Winterhawks in Game 4 at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

“It’s a good feeling, but I think our mindset doesn’t really change whether it’s Game 1 of the regular season or if its Game 4 of the Finals,” Mateychuk said. “We just have to go out there and get the job done.”

That’s been the focus right from Day 1 of the post-season, with Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary acknowledging that all their hard work could finally pay off with immortality on Wednesday night.

“I think they’ve earned this, they don’t need to shy away from it,” O’Leary said. “I think it just comes back to being in the moment and understanding the opportunity you have. You talk all along whether it’s a first-year player understanding however many minutes you’re playing, you just have to be ready for that moment. It could be the biggest moment of the game or of the season, and it could be (tonight).”

One factor neither team would like to see become an issue is the ice conditions. Moose Jaw Events Centre staff had difficulty getting the ice to freeze after between-period floods during Game 3, leading to a lengthy delay to start the third period.

Workers initially tried to squeegee the ice, but when that didn’t work, had to dry-scrape the surface to make it playable. In the end game was delayed about 15 minutes as crews worked to solve the issues.

For the coaches and players, it wasn’t much of a concern, given the fact both teams were in the same boat.

“I thought it wasn’t the best, I know the ice crew did the best they could and it’ll hopefully be better tomorrow,” said Portland defenceman Ryder Thompson.

“Circumstances don’t change responsibilities,” said O’Leary. “It’s both teams dealing with it, and I love the mindset of our group. It was what it was, we didn’t complain about it, it just became part of the game. It contributed to how crisp the game was and execution on both sides, but those are just circumstances and that doesn’t change things.”

Workers kept the ice plant running full blast overnight in order to further harden the surface, and contributing factors like between-period on-ice activities shortening freezing time will be eliminated. As a result, it’s expected things will be far better when the puck drops at 8 p.m. 

The contest is naturally completely sold out, but be sure to catch the game on TSN or the CHL TV app to potentially watch history be made.

A pre-game tailgate party is also being held on the east pad from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., with doors open at 6:30 p.m.