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Warriors aim to take stranglehold on series in Game 4 after solid win Tuesday

Moose Jaw’s 5-3 win in Swift Current gives home-ice advantage back to Warriors in Eastern Conference semifinal
Warriors captain Denton Mateychuk gets off a shot during action from Game 3 in Swift Current.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- When you’re in the midst of a playoff series with a team as dangerous as the Swift Current Broncos, sometimes ‘bend but don’t break’ can be a valid strategy for winning games on the road.

The Warriors put that to practice on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal in Swift Current, and thanks to a 5-3 victory, they not only have a two-games-to-one series lead, they’ve also regained home-ice advantage.

That all makes for a crucial Game 4 on Wednesday night -- the Warriors will either have a stranglehold heading into Game 5 in Moose Jaw on Friday night, or things will be all tied up.

“It’s a swing game, for sure,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary “It’s an opportunity for us to keep the lead and head back home, but we know we’re going to get their very best game. There was a lot of energy in the building, it’ll be the same (Wednesday) night, so we have to keep an even keel through the ups and downs, whether it’s a goal against or a tough break, we know they’re going to be good and we have to bring our best game.”

The Warriors didn’t necessarily do that on Tuesday night, but the game they did play was enough to get the job done. 

A three-goal outburst late in the third period gave Moose Jaw control and after the Broncos scored two quick ones early in the second to tie things up, Denton Mateychuk scored the game-winner late in the period, and the Warriors held on through a tense third.

“I thought for the most part we did some real good things,” O’Leary said. “We got on our heels a little bit at times, we were in good spots but just not going all in on checking, and there were some turnovers we’d like back that gave Swift Current some real good looks. But played a pretty good hockey game and still left a lot on the table in the offensive zone that we could have cashed in on.”

The third period ended up turning into a showcase of the aforementioned bend-but-don’t-break for the Warriors, as Swift Current dominated the zone time but had few top-flight scoring chances. The ones they did have were snapped up by goaltender Jackson Unger, who has bounced back admirably after a tough showing in Game 1.

“Job number one is to get inside, make sure that we’re on the right side of our man and make it hard to get pucks inside home plate,” O’Leary said of the solid defensive work in the third. “I thought we did that but there was a little bit too much time spent in the D zone because once we were inside were too passive to go get the puck back.

“But I’m proud of the group tonight, they really rode the waves of emotion. You’re up by two and all of a sudden the game is tied, but this group isn’t phased and I thought our best players really dug in.”

One of those was Mateychuk, who has been on absolute fire the last two games. The Warriors’ captain followed up his six-point outing in Game 2 with another two goals and three points Wednesday, giving him nine in two games.

“Everything starts with him,” O’Leary said. “The bigger the moment the more he digs in and wants to be a difference maker. We’re seeing firsthand why he’s going to be a great pro, he’s competitive and he has all sorts skill and ability, too.”

Now it’s on to the biggest game of the series in a few hours time, with O'Leary hoping to see an even better showing from his troops.

“We’re never satisfied or complacent with our game,” he said. “We’ve won the last two games, but there’s still plenty to clean up and we want to be better today than we were yesterday. That’s how it’s been each game so far and what we’ll want to see on Wednesday night."

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