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Warriors advance to Memorial Cup semifinal with win over Drummondville

Ziprick scores game-winner in final minutes, Unger stops 49 shots as Warriors take 5-3 victory in must-win game; to face either Saginaw or London in semifinal on Friday
The Moose Jaw Warriors celebrate after their round robin win over the Drummondville Voltigeurs on Tursday night.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- The Moose Jaw Warriors are off to the Memorial Cup semifinal.

Playing in a must-win contest in their final round robin game against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Drummondville Voltigeurs, the Warriors roared out to a 3-0 lead before going on to a 5-3 victory at the national major junior championship in Saginaw, Mich.

Defenceman Aiden Ziprick scored the game-winner shorthanded with 1:34 remaining in regulation after Drummondville had dominated much of the period. The Warriors also had a stellar showing from goaltender Jackson Unger, who essentially saved the day with 24 shots in the third period, facing 52 total on the night and taking home the Player of the Game award.

“These are the games that matter the most, I dialled in, I prepared well and with that many shots you just get into a groove,” Unger said in the post-game interview on TSN. “I just tried to be consistent throughout the game.”

Moose Jaw now advances to the semifinal and will face the loser of the London Knights and Saginaw Spirit, who play in the final round robin game on Wednesday night.

The Warriors got off to a solid start, holding Drummondville to a single shot over the first six minutes and dominating zone time while generating a handful of chances.

Moose Jaw would turn that pressure into the game’s opening goal with 7:56 to play in the first, and it was the product of some slick passing off the rush. Lynden Lakovic combined with Atley Calvert to get the puck to Voytech Port deep in the Drummondville zone, and he’d put a hard-angle shot into the open net for the 1-0 lead.

Unger was pressed into service not long after, as the Voltigeurs’ Luke Woodworth was left alone in the Moose Jaw zone and had a great scoring chance, but Unger would make a nice glove save.

Unger then had to be sharp to start the second period, making a couple of big saves as Drummondville pushed for their opening goal.

The Warriors received the first power play of the game when Woodworth took a hooking penalty during a Moose Jaw scoring chance, and they’d score their first power play goal of the tournament.

Jagger Firkus picked up his first marker of the Memorial Cup, and it was a familiar play -- a cross-ice pass from Brayden Yager for a one-timer that Firkus would hammer home with 5:10 gone in the period.

The ice began to tilt more and more in the Warriors’ favour as the period progressed, and with 7:14 remaining they’d made it a 3-0 lead.

Denton Mateychuk continued his solid offensive output by setting up a quick give-and-go with Yager and putting the puck into the open net behind Voltigeurs goaltender Riley Mercer.

Drummondville got one back just over a minute later when Justin Cote took a pass from Woodworth and slammed home a one-timer from the right face-off circle to make it a two-goal game.

Only 56 seconds later it was a one-goal game when Petr Repcik got off a harmless looking shot from the boards that found its way through traffic and top shelf.

Drummondville kept coming early in the third, and they’d find the tying goal 3:13 in. Alexis Gendron picked up the puck immediately after a face-off win and got off a perfect shot from the slot that went top shelf glove side on Unger.

The Voltigeurs took over the game from there, creating turnovers at both ends of the ice and sending tons of shots at Unger, outshooting the Warriors 19-2 over the first 11 minutes of the period.

Even with things going Drummondville’s way, Moose Jaw’s Brayden Schuurman nearly got the go-ahead goal with five minutes to play when his shot from the point went off the crossbar.

The Warriors took their first penalty of the game when Firkus was hit with a marginal roughing penalty with 3:23 remaining, but it would be Ziprick who found the go-ahead goal.

A great play by Matthew Savoie off the rush led to a scoring chance, with the puck eventually getting back to the Warriors defenceman at the point, and his shot from the high slot would beat Mercer glove side with 1:34 remaining in regulation.

Drummondville pulled Mercer with 1:05 remaining, but Yager would finish off a two-on-one with Savoie with an empty net goal, and the Warriors had their season-saving win.

The Warriors capped their night with 27 shots on Mercer.

Mateychuk had another stellar outing with a goal and three points while also going plus-three, while Yager also had a three-point night.

Moose Jaw is now off until Friday, when they’ll take the ice in the Memorial Cup semifinal against the loser of the Saginaw Spirit and London Knights. That contest takes place Wednesday, with Thursday as an off day for all three remaining teams.

Puck drop for all Memorial Cup games is 5:30 p.m., with all contests broadcast on TSN.

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