The Moose Jaw Warriors struck first in the 2024 WHL Championship Series, presented by Nutrien.

Matthew Savoie scored with 3:02 to go in the third period to lift the Warriors to a 3-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks in Game 1 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Friday night.

“It always starts with work, we talk about races-and-battles and that’s what it was,” Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary on the win.

“It took a bit of time with our execution with passes and that sort of thing, but it’s always a choice whether you want to sprint and we sprinted right out of the gate.”

The win is the Warriors’ organization’s first in the WHL Championship Series after previously being swept by the Vancouver Giants in 2006.

Warriors forward Atley Calvert, who opened the scoring for Moose Jaw, said it’s a big win, but just the start for the team in the series.

“You go through the whole year and you work for moments like this, so it definitely feels good to get the win here in Game 1,” Calvert said.

“At the end of the day, we came here for two wins, we got the first one out of the way and we’re onto the second one.”

After a scoreless first period, the Warriors struck first when Calvert scored on a penalty shot just 1:17 into the second period.

The Warriors added to their lead only 4:25 later when Jagger Firkus set up Denton Mateychuk for his ninth of the playoffs.

Portland would respond just under four minutes as Diego Buttazzoni made it a 2-1 game through 40.

Just 4:14 into the third period, Winterhawks captain Gabe Klassen would tie the game at 2-2.

As Portland pressed for a go-ahead goal as the third went on, the Warriors would be strike with Savoie wiring home his ninth of the playoffs to give Moose Jaw the win.

Savoie said the Warriors did a good job of preparing for the Winterhawks.

“I tried telling the guys, they play a fast game, they like to move the puck north and from our pre-scouts, our video, we knew that and I thought we did a good job preparing for it,” he said.

The Winterhawks outshot the Warriors, 14-11, in the third and Moose Jaw goalie Jackson Unger made 31 saves in the win.

Portland goalie Jan Spunar turned away 34 of 37 shots in the loss.

The Warriors went 0-for-3 on the power play and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill on the night.

The two sides will now meet for Game 2 on Saturday night at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Puck drops at 8 p.m. Saskatchewan time. 

Pregame starts at 7:40 p.m. with the voice of the Warriors James Gallo on Country 100.