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Impressive showing in Swift Current has Warriors on verge of finishing off series

Relentless third-period push leads to Game 4 win, Moose Jaw can wrap things up Friday night at home
Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brayden Yager breaks into the Swift Current zone during action Wednesday night.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- The Moose Jaw Warriors just keep finding a way to get things done in the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal.

And thanks to an impressive surge in the third period on Wednesday night in Swift Current, the Warriors will have a chance to finish off the Broncos on home ice.

That game -- set for Friday night at the Moose Jaw Events Centre -- is completely sold out, as fans continue to support the team in droves as they continue their playoff run.

Before earning the opportunity to wrap up the series, there was a crucial Game 4 to get through, and the Warriors did just that thanks to a three-goal third period that snapped a 2-2 tie and led to a 5-2 victory.

“I honestly didn’t think our first 40 minutes were our best, but obviously we knew going into the third we had a chance to take a pretty important lead in the series and give ourselves a chance to win at home,” said Warriors forward Brayden Yager on the Ultimate Fan Zone post-game show. 

Yager did his part, picking up a goal and an assist in the final frame and finishing with three points on the night. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect now has a team-best seven goals in the post-season and is fourth in league playoff scoring behind Warriors captain Denton Mateychuk (8-5-2-17), forward Jagger Firkus (8-6-9-15) and Saskatoon’s Egor Sidorov (9-10-4-14).

That the Warriors were able to press in the third period and find the win was naturally a positive sign in head coach Mark O’Leary’s eyes.

“You worry about a lot of things as a coach, but one thing you don’t have to worry about with this group is the fact they’re not going to stop,” he said. “They play regardless of the circumstances and that’s a great mindset that we have, we continue to forge on and play a certain way and know in the end we’ll be there.”

While the Warriors’ offence was getting things down, they were just as effective in their own zone, led by goaltender Jackson Unger.

The 18-year-old netminder has been outstanding ever since being pulled in Game 1 and was back at it in Game 4, making a host of big saves through the first two periods until his teammates finally broke through at the other end of the ice.

“The big thing for him is the timely saves, the ones where everything is going pretty good in the offensive zone and we’re a little loose in coverage and they get that Grade A chance,” O’Leary said. “For him to make those saves, that gives us confidence that we’re okay if we do mess up now and then. It’s junior hockey, they’re not going to be perfect and you need those big saves.”

Now the focus turns to the ever-increasing difficulty in the post-season -- finishing off teams round by round. The Warriors will be expecting another hard push from the Broncos in Game 5, but remain confident they can move on to the Eastern Conference final against the Saskatoon Blades, who finished off their sweep of Red Deer on Wednesday.

“I know the building will be rocking and we’re looking forward to the opportunity,” O’Leary said. “We’ve been in many circumstances with this group trying to put a team out, and we know we’re going to get Swift Current’s best. We just have to make sure we bring ours.”

Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

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