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Preview: Little to choose between Warriors and Blades as another close series expected

WHL Eastern Conference final to feature two teams with nearly identical head-to-head and post-trade-deadline records; series starts Friday in Saskatoon
Jagger Firkus scores against the Saskatoon Blades in their final meeting of the regular season.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- It’s become a bit of a broken record at this point.

The Moose Jaw Warriors facing an opponent in the 2024 Western Hockey League playoffs and having an almost identical record in head-to-head play in the regular season.

Such was the case in the first round against the Brandon Wheat Kings and again in the second round against the Swift Current Broncos, with the Warriors winning the former in four games and taking five games to get through the latter.

Now, it’s on to the Eastern Conference final for only the third time in team history, against an opponent in the Saskatoon Blades that promises to once again offer a serious challenge.

And for proof of that, you just have to look at how things went in the regular season between the two clubs: six games played, three wins apiece.

The Warriors got the better of things early, taking a 3-1 win on Oct. 1 in Saskatoon before rolling to a 9-6 win in their first meeting in Moose Jaw on Nov. 14.

The Blades got their first win over the Warriors on home ice on Nov. 17 and then followed with a 4-3 win in Moose Jaw on Dec. 9, the last time the two teams would meet until after the WHL trade deadline.

That highly anticipated home-and-home set took place during the Mar. 15 weekend, with the Blades winning 6-3 in Saskatoon and the Warriors winning 6-3 at home the next night.

Of course, both teams had vastly different line-ups after the Jan. 10 trade deadline, but even in that situation the teams are remarkably close -- the Warriors were 22-6-0-1 after the deadline, the Blades 23-5-0-1, with a single win separating the two teams.

In the end, Saskatoon had the better record at the start of the season and went on to post a 50-13-2-3 mark to win the Scotty Munro Trophy as the team with the best regular season record, while the Warriors had the second-best mark in the Eastern Conference at 44-21-0-3.

When it comes to player performance, the Warriors once again have a substantial advantage. 

Trevor Wong led the Blades with 15 goals and 101 points in 68 games, with Egor Sidorov (66-50-38-88), Brandon Lisowsky (68-42-38-80) and Easton Armstrong (62-34-22-56) rounding out their top four to go along with Tanner Molendyk (50-10-46-56) as their highest scoring defencman.

Jagger Firkus (63-61-65-126), Atley Calvert (68-47-48-95), Brayden Yager (57-35-60-95) and Matthew Savoie (34-30-41-71) led Moose Jaw forwards in scoring, while Denton Mateychuk (52-17-58-75) topped the Warriors rearguards.

Head-to-head, it was all about the Firkus Circus. The WHL scoring champion had nine goals and 15 points over the six games against the Blades, while Yager had two goals and seven points and Brayden Schuurman had a goal and six points. 

Three players had seven points against the Warriors: Sidorov (4-3-7), Lisowsky (2-5-7) and Wong (0-7-7).

Mateychuk has been a force in the playoffs and leads the league in scoring with five goals and 19 points in nine games, with Firkus right on his heels with nine goals and 18 points in the same span. Yager (9-7-7-14) and Savoie (8-7-6-13) sit eighth and ninth in scoring.

Sidorov is the only Saskatoon player in the top 10 after the first two rounds with 10 goals and 14 points in nine games; Wong is 12th with three goals and 13 points.

In goal, Jackson Unger carries a 3.29 goals against average and .903 save percentage into the third round, but those numbers are deceptive given his stellar play through the majority of both series.

For Saskatoon, Evan Gardner has seen action in eight games and has a 1.66 GAA and .928 SP, while Austin Elliot has played three games and has a 2.95 GAA and .887 SP.

The Blades won their opening round series in five games over Prince Albert and then swept an injury-riddled Red Deer Rebels squad.

Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference final are set for this coming Friday and Saturday in Saskatoon, with Games 3 and 4 in Moose Jaw on Tuesday, Apr. 30 and Wednesday, May 1. If necessary Game 5 is in Saskatoon on Friday, May 3, Game 6 in Moose Jaw on Sunday, May 5 and Game 7 in Saskatoon on Tuesday, May 7.

Both dates at the Moose Jaw Events Centre were half sold out a couple of hours after tickets went on sale Saturday afternoon, with fans advised to move quickly to pick up seats at the box office or on

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