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Warriors win U18 AA playoff series opener, can clinch series Friday

Moose Jaw takes 5-2 victory over Sask East in first game of South Sask Division quarter-final
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The Moose Jaw U18 AA Warriors are on the verge of a first-round upset in the Sask AA Hockey League South Division quarter-final.

The Warriors battled to a 5-2 victory over the Sask East Oilers in the opening game of their best-of-three series on Wednesday night and as a result, will have a chance to clinch a spot in the second round Friday at the Bert Hunt.

It’s a great start to the postseason for the first U18 AA Warrior team to crack the playoffs in nearly a decade, with the last crew to make the postseason doing so in 2015.

Moose Jaw capped their regular season with a 15-17-3-1 record and in seventh place, setting up a first-round showdown with second-place Sask East and their 23-8-3-2 mark.

The 17-point difference in the standings meant little in Game 1, though, as the Warriors had two goals in each of the first and second periods to lead 4-0 after 40 minutes.

Theron Watteyne started things with a power play goal with 7:45 remaining in the first and Nolan Kearns made it 2-0 with 2:30 to play in the frame.

Seeing Kearns get on the board is no surprise after he led the SAAHL U18 league in scoring this past season with a Matthew Savoie-esque 31 goals and 72 points in 36 games. Wattenye also cracked the top 10 with 16 goals and 51 points to finish sixth.

Things went just as well for the Warriors in the second period, as Riley Bender made it a three-goal game 7:43 into the frame and Layne Gadd increased the edge to 4-0 with 2:06 to play.

Meric Poncelet scored goals 31 seconds apart early in the third to get South East back within a pair, but that’s as close as they’d get, thanks to an empty-net goal from Ben King with 28 seconds to play.

Casson Silbernagel picked up the win in goal and looked great in doing so, turning aside no less than 50 shots on the night. The Warriors had 23 shots on Oilers goaltender William Broda.

The Warriors can finish off the series on Friday night, with puck drop at 7:45 p.m. at the Bert Hunt. 

Should Moose Jaw close out, things only get tougher in the South Sask Division semifinal where the Regina Capitals await. Regina finished first overall in the league with a 28-4-4-0 record and swept the Balgonie Prairie Storm in two games..

Check out for the playoff bracket and updated scores.

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