Like most teams in the Western Hockey League, the Moose Jaw Warriors head into the 2022 playoffs without a lot of postseason experience under their belts.
With the 2020 playoffs cancelled due to the pandemic and 2021 season played exclusively in multi-team hubs, unless a player carried an outsized impact as a youngster in the 2019 campaign, playoff games played will be a scarce commodity.
Fortunately for the Warriors, a few members of the team find themselves in exactly that position -- and none more so than overage forward Cordel Larson.
Larson suited up for 14 games with the Spokane Chiefs as a 17-year-old in the 2019 playoffs, winning the first two series with Portland and Everett in five games before falling in five to the Vancouver Giants in the Western Conference final. Vancouver went on to lose to Prince Albert in overtime in Game 7, with the Raiders heading into the 2022 postseason as the defending WHL champions.
While the leadership was up to guys like Chiefs captain Jaret Dolan-Anderson and defenceman Ty Smith, the experience was valuable to Larson nonetheless.
“That’s the thing, when you’re a younger guy like that you can take a breath and soak it all in in a sense,” said Larson, who had two assists through the 14 games. “So that was an eye-opening experience for me, going on a deep run in the playoffs, you learn about the highs and the lows of the game and trying to keep an even keel through it all. It was a few years ago, but it’s sharply ingrained in my memory and I want to bring a lot of those same lessons I learned to these guys here.”
Ryder Korczak also saw 11 games in the 2019 playoffs as a member of the Calgary Hitmen, while team captain Daemon Hunt suited up for two games as a 15-year-old in 2018 and another four in 2019.
Overage goaltender Carl Tetachuk also has a decent amount of playoff experience, playing seven games with Lethbridge in their 2019 Conference semifinal run.
All will carry a similar message into Games 1 and 2 against the Saskatoon Blades at Mosaic Place this Friday and Saturday night.
“Managing the highs and lows of the playoffs is what it’s all about,” Larson said. “There are going to be times where you’re playing great and feel like you’re on top of the world, and there are going to be times where the team is going through tough games and having to fight it a bit.
“So it’s a matter of keeping our emotions in check, making sure we stick to Warriors hockey, and if we can do that I think we’ll be fine.”
Games 3 and 4 of the series are in Saskatoon on Tuesday and Wednesday; Game 5, if necessary, is in Moose Jaw on Friday, Apr. 29, followed by Game 6 in Saskatoon on Saturday, Apr. 30 and the deciding Game 7 in Moose Jaw on Tuesday, May 3.
“We really believe in ourselves and we’ve proven we can beat all the top teams in our league, so we know what it takes, and Saskatoon is going to be a great match-up for us,” Larson said. “The guys are rested and ready to go and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Playoff tickets are now on sale, and you can pick them up by visiting the Warriors office in Mosaic Place or by visiting www.mjwarriors.ca.