Written by Cami Kepke/WHL.ca

Saginaw, Mich.— Another day, another franchise first.

With a 5-3 win over the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the Moose Jaw Warriors have earned the team’s first victory at the Memorial Cup.

18-year-old defenceman Aiden Ziprick- who had just one career WHL goal entering the night- sealed the historic decision with a shorthanded goal late in the game.

“It’s pretty special,” Ziprick grinned in the post-game scrum. “It’s a big tournament right now. Close game, and we needed a goal. So to get one for the guys is just huge for me. I’ll definitely remember that for the rest of my life.

The whole year, when we’re against the wall we know that’s when we’re at our best. So I think tonight we just showed up. We don’t want to go home yet and we’re still here for the win.”

Warriors Captain and tournament points leader Denton Mateychuk also made a massive impact with a goal and two assists- including the primary helper on Ziprick’s game-winner.

Moose Jaw will move on to face the OHL Champion London Knights or host Saginaw Spirit in Friday’s semifinal match.

For a second straight game, Moose Jaw opened the scoring.

Lynden Lakovic brought the puck into the offensive zone, feeding alternate captain Atley Calvert, who found Vojtech Port at a near-impossible angle.

This marks the Anaheim Ducks prospect’s first goal at the tournament.

Prior to the game, the Warriors had acknowledged their lack of success on special teams and the negative impact it was having on their results at the tournament.

True to their word, special teams turned out to be the difference-maker on Tuesday.

A furious push by Moose Jaw in the second period forced Drummondville to take a penalty and give the Warriors their first man-advantage of the game.

Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Brayden Yager faked a shot on net, drawing the netminder towards him, but pumped a pass to Jagger Firkus, who hit the yawning cage for his first goal of the tournament and Moose Jaw’s first powerplay goal at the Memorial Cup.

“Even before we scored the power play goal, I just thought it looked like us,” Head Coach Mark O’Leary explained. “It was just a little more urgent. You know, just in good spots and hungry to make a difference in the game.”

Mateychuk extended his team’s lead to 3-0 after pouncing on a loose puck in the Drummondville crease and poking it over the goal line.

The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has scored in all three games at the Memorial Cup.

But the Voltigeurs would not go quietly into the night as alternate captain Justin Cote got his team on the board with a wicked one-timer late in the second period.

Drummondville trimmed the deficit again 57 seconds later as draft-eligible Peter Repcik flexed his release with another shot destined for the top corner of the Warriors’ net.

The QMJHL Champions continued their push in the third period as Philadelphia Flyers prospect Alexis Gendron whipped a shot top shelf off the faceoff to level the match.

It seemed that the ice was tilting in Drummondville’s favour, especially after a late penalty landed Jagger Firkus in the penalty box with three-and-a-half minutes left in regulation.

The Warriors pressed hard on the penalty kill, with Matthew Savoie charging into the Voltigeur’s zone.

While Drummondville was able to strip the puck away from the Buffalo Sabres prospect, Mateychuk stole it back and fed a trailing Ziprick for a gorgeous shot from the high slot.

The shorthanded goal would stand as the go-ahead marker and Yager iced the game with an empty-net tally.

Jackson Unger was named Player of the Game with an eye-watering 49 saves.

“Throughout the game, you get in a groove,” Unger said. “Seeing how many shots, even past like a 25-shot mark, you just know your game and you feel good in the crease.”

The 2024 NHL Draft-eligible netminder and WHL Goaltender of the Year nominee also led the league with 35 wins in the regular season and was among the leaders in minutes played and shots faced.

So if there’s anyone who is built to steer aside nearly 50 shots in the second half of a back-to-back, it’s him.

“Sometimes the more workload he gets, the better he gets,” O’Leary added. “That’s just competitiveness. Tonight, we certainly needed him, over 50 shots, whatever it was. If anybody wants to talk fatigue, it’s Jackson Unger. He’s played a lot of hockey games this year and saw a lot of pucks But he found another gear when it got hard and (I’m) just real proud of the effort.”

The OHL Champion London Knights and host Saginaw Spirit will clash on Wednesday, May 29 to determine who will advance directly to the final and who will take on Moose Jaw on Friday.

Don’t miss a minute of the action- all games are available on TSN 1/5, RDS, NHL Network (USA only) and CHL TV.