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Warriors’ Savoie aiming to put wealth of playoff experience to good use in WHL Final

After reaching Conference Final in 2022 and WHL Final in 2023 with Winnipeg, Buffalo Sabres prospect has a good idea what it’ll take to win
Moose Jaw Warriors forward Matthew Savoie will be looking to put his playoff experience to good use when the WHL Final begins on Friday night.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- Moose Jaw Warriors forward Matthew Savoie has a distinct advantage over the vast majority of players taking the ice in the Western Hockey League championship final.

Not only has the Buffalo Sabres product played the most playoff games out of anyone on the ice heading into Game 1 against Portland on Friday night -- 44 over the past three seasons -- he’s also gone deep the previous two campaigns with the Winnipeg Ice.

That includes an appearance in the Conference Final in 2022, where they lost in five to the Edmonton Oil Kings, and the WHL Final in 2023 when they fell in five to the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Now, it’s time to take that next step, and Savoie aims to put his vast experience to the best use possible.

“I’ve definitely been able to lean on the experience I’ve had in this league and making it far in the playoffs and getting to play good teams, seeing what it takes to have success and go that far,” Savoie said. “I think this is a special group we have. You don’t get too many chances playing hockey to win a championship, I think all of us know that and we’re going to do what we can to get it done here.”

The Warriors are coming off an epic series with the Saskatoon Blades that saw six of the seven games going to overtime, including Game 7 on Tuesday night which saw the Warriors win 3-2 in Saskatoon to advance to the WHL Final.

Portland didn’t have quite as tough a run, getting past the Prince George Cougars in six games.

Savoie expects things to be just as close and tight-checking as the Conference Final, although it would be tough to match how tight the games were.

“I expect it’’ll be more or less the same, especially with the waves of emotions,” he said. “I think our group did a great job last series just riding that wave, not getting too high or low, so we’ll just need to stay the same and continue what we’ve been doing.”

It’s been a quick turnaround for Moose Jaw, as they returned home early Wednesday morning and were on a flight to Portland on Thursday afternoon. The Warriors planned to put in a bit of preparation before leaving for the west coast, getting a feel for what they might see from the Winterhawks when puck drops at 8 p.m. Friday.

“It’s rest and recovery and then get back at it and watch some video on Portland and see what they’ve been doing in the playoffs,” Savoie said. “A lot of guys watch hockey on their own time so they have a pretty good idea, but we’ll dive deep into their systems and gameplan how we can beat them.”

One thing that’s for certain is the 40th anniversary edition of the Moose Jaw Warriors has already entered legendary status -- and a week from now, it could be something else together.

“It’s cool. It adds a bit of extra pressure, but we’re the kind of group that thrives off that and building off the support we’ve been getting is a positive thing,” Savoie said of potentially winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time in franchise history.

“The finals are a step up and there’s so much hype and excitement that this is definitely going to be a great series and we’re ready to do what we have to to win it.”

Games 1 and 2 are in Portland Friday and Saturday, with both contests being broadcast on TSN. The series reverts to the Moose Jaw Events Centre for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with tickets in the bowl selling out in six minutes after going on sale Friday morning. Standing room only remains, check for availability.