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Larson scores OT winner as Warriors push Blades to elimination with Game 3 win

Moose Jaw takes 3-2 overtime win after Saskatoon ties game in final minute; can finish off series on Wednesday night in Saskatoon
warriors logo sweater
(file photo)

As the old saying goes, just throw the puck at the net and sometimes good things will happen.

Especially in overtime.

With 9:40 gone in the first extra period on Tuesday night in Game 3 between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatoon Blades, Cordel Larson picked up a loose puck in the corner and fired a quick shot to the front of the Saskatoon goal. The puck appeared to be going wide but redirected in front, finding it's way past Blades goaltender Nolan Maier and into the net.

With that, the Warriors had a 4-3 win at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon and a three-games-to-none lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series.

Atley Calvert was originally credited with the winner after it initially appeared he had the last touch on the puck, but it was later ruled Larson's goal.

“They deserved it,” Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary said of the winning marker and seeing Larson and Calvert figuring into things. “I think that they're honest players, they don’t do anything the easy way, they do it the hard way. And they're all in so it's always nice when those guys get rewarded. They were all around the net all night and they definitely deserved that one.”

Saskatoon opened scoring for the first time in the series with a power play goal at 3:20 of the opening frame. Jayden Wiens took a cross-ice slap-pass from Noah Boyko and got off a quick shot that found its way into the lower left corner.

The Warriors didn’t get a shot on net until five minutes were gone, but the contest gradually settled into a back-and-forth affair until the Warriors were able to strike.

Seeing that kind of early push from the Blades was no surprise to O’Leary.

“We talked about that before the game, we were going to see Saskatoon’s best tonight,” O’Leary said. “We just had to match it with our best. And I think that's what we saw tonight, Saskatoon generates a lot off the rush, so they were flying the zone and making it tough on our D to be counting numbers. Then they capitalize on the power play, which has been big for them all season long. But the fact that we found a way to win is big for the group.”

Eric Alarie tied the game with 1:45 remaining in the first, finishing off a sustained shift in the Saskatoon zone by taking a feed from Denton Mateychuk at the blueline, going around Blades defender Kyle Crnkovic and beating Nolan Maier with a shot low stick side.

The Warriors came out firing in the second period and had a handful of scoring chances in the first five minutes before Martin Rysavy finally broke through. Jagger Firkus found the Czech import all alone in the slot and his one-timer made it 2-1 with 4:43 gone.

Moose Jaw had a chance to make it a two-goal lead a minute later when Saskatoon’s Vaughn Watterodt took a slew-footing double minor, but the Blades penalty killers came through -- and especially Maier. The Blades overage netminder made eight stops over the four minutes, including big cross-crease saves on Alarie and Firkus.

The Warriors had another power play before the period was out and went into the third 1-for-14 in the series with the man advantage. They’d finish the game 0-for-5.

O’Leary pointed to the opportunities the team was able to generate on Tuesday, though, and the fact they’re winning games even without scoring on the man advantage.

“There have been some times throughout the course of this year where we're not scoring and the power play is frustrated because we're not entering the zone and we're not getting very good opportunities,” O’Leary said. “But tonight was the opposite. I thought they looked dangerous and they created momentum for us. We just didn't finish, so we’d like to see that happen soon, and hopefully tomorrow.”

Saskatoon received a power play chance with just over three minutes remaining when Rysavy took a four-minute minor for boarding, and the Blades would make the Warriors pay.

Brandon Lisowsky scored with 45 seconds left in the game and Maier pulled for the 6-on-4 to tie things up 2-2.

Carl Tetachuk was decidedly less busy than Maier when it came to needing to make big saves, but was there when he needed to be with a 27-stop showing. The Warriors fired 37 shots at Maier.

The Warriors will now have a chance to wrap the series up on Wednesday night in Saskatoon, with puck drop for Game 4 at 7 p.m.

O’Leary is taking the same message as he’s had for his troops all series -- forget about momentum, forget about the result, focus on the next game and the next game alone.

“We’ll get a good night’s sleep and it’s a reset,” he said. “We’ll come out and play our game and see what happens.”