The Moose Jaw Warriors had the Mosaic Place faithful in a frenzy on Friday night.
The Warriors finished off the Saskatoon Blades with a 6-3 win in Game 5 of their first round series.
“The fans are incredible, it’s a treat to play in front of them every night and we definitely feed off them,” Moose Jaw product Atley Calvert said after the victory.
Moose Jaw knocks off Saskatoon 4-1 in the best-of-seven series, advancing to the second round for the first time since 2018.
Warriors assistant coach Gord Burnett said the young team did a good job of riding the waves of momentum during a playoff series and learning how to play playoff hockey.
“As the game went back-and-forth and the momentum changed a little bit, you could feel the nerves coming and going as well,” he said. “We did a pretty good job of managing our nerves and it worked out for us.”
The series featured two rivals going head-to-head after a hard fought season series and saw both teams play physical hockey.
Calvert said the Warriors responded to any challenge that they had to face from the Blades.
“This is the most fun time of the year, you try and play as hard as you can every night and the games mean so much more at this time of the year,” Calvert said.
“They’re on the brink of elimination, so they’re going to try and get in that grill as much as they can, but at the end of the day, we came away with the W, so that’s all that matters.”
Calvert scored the insurance goal with just under four minutes left in the third period to restore the Warriors’ two-goal lead. He finished with a goal and two points in the win.
Jagger Firkus opened the scoring on his 18th birthday off a great feed from Brayden Yager just 5:55, which allowed the Warriors to settle in after a feeling out process to start the game.
“Getting the first goal is huge,” Burnett said.
Denton Mateychuk would score less than four minutes later to make it 2-0 for the Warriors 9:08 into the game.
Firkus finished with two goals and three points, while Mateychuk added a goal and three points in the win.
After Moose Jaw moved in front 2-0, a bad bounce in the defensive zone ended up in the back of the Warriors’ net, getting Saskatoon on the board on a goal from Josh Pillar.
The Warriors restored their two-goal lead 8:52 into the second period when Firkus snapped home his second of the night.
Pillar answered back for Saskatoon again less than five minutes later to make it a 3-2 game through two periods.
Just 5:26 into the third period, Thomas Tien was sprung on a breakaway by Majid Kaddoura and buried his first playoff goal to put Moose Jaw back in front by two.
The Blades found a way to answer again as Trevor Wong scored with 7:13 to play, making it a one-goal lead for the Warriors.
But, Calvert put the game away when he scored in the slot with 3:38 to go in the game.
Robert Baco fired the puck into the empty net with just under two minutes left to seal the win and send Moose Jaw to the second round.
Burnett said Saskatoon did a good job of responding throughout the game, but the Warriors learned from their mistakes and will be better going forward because of it.
“When we got up by two [in the third], we lost a bit of focus for a couple minutes and it cost us a little bit, but those are moments in games that we want our guys to be in because as we move forward, we’re going to be in more of them and getting experienced in those scenarios is key,” he said.
Calvert said the Warriors don’t quit in games and it’s serving them well in the post-season.
“This game kind of sums up the year for us, we just try and bounce back because no matter what situation we’re given, we try to bounce back and that’s the story of our team and the story of our year,” he said.
Carl Tetachuk made 26 saves in the win, while the Warriors outshot Saskatoon, 41-29, on the night.
Moose Jaw finished 1-for-6 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
The Warriors will now wait to find out their opponent in the second round. If Red Deer beats Brandon, Moose Jaw will face Winnipeg, but if the Wheat Kings come back to knock off the Rebels, the Warriors take on Edmonton.
Tickets for the second round will go on sale next week.