Moose Jaw Warriors capture first WHL Championship in franchise ...

23 days ago
Moose Jaw Warriors

Moose Jaw, Sask.— For the first time in franchise history, the Moose Jaw Warriors are WHL Champions.

The Warriors clinched the Ed Chynoweth Cup with a 4-2 win over the Western Conference Champion Portland Winterhawks in Game 4 of the 2024 WHL Championship Series presented by Nutrien.

After two periods of back-and-forth action, the Warriors rallied in the third frame by rattling off two goals en route to their fourth win at the Championship Series.

The high-flying Warriors offence lit the lamp early and often, netting the most goals of any WHL team in the postseason.

Moose Jaw scored 90 times, averaging four-point-five goals for per game while allowing just 60 against.

Captain Denton Mateychuk was named WHL Playoff MVP after leading all defencemen in scoring with 30 points.

The impressive marker saw the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect finish second in playoff scoring among all WHL skaters, highlighted by a six-point outing against the Swift Current Broncos in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Warriors made quick work of Brandon in the quarterfinals, dispatching the Wheat Kings in four games. The Swift Current Broncos dished Moose Jaw its first loss of the postseason, but the Warriors would roar back to win four straight games and advance to the first all-Saskatchewan Eastern Conference Championship since 1993.

Moose Jaw downed the regular-season champion Saskatoon Blades- but it was a battle for the ages to get there. The teams set a modern WHL record with six of seven games requiring overtime. Lynden Lakovic would score the extra-time winner to clinch the series and send the Warriors to the final round for the first time since 2006.

The team posted an overall record of 16-1-3-0, while the Moose Jaw Events Centre- better known as The Hangar- became a near-impenetrable fortress in the playoffs, with the Warriors posting a stellar 8-1-1-0 record on home ice.

WHL Player of the Year Jagger Firkus saw his sensational regular season campaign spill over into the playoffs, where he led the team once again with 14 goals and 18 helpers for 32 points, including a hat trick to eliminate the Broncos in the second round.

The Seattle Kraken prospect captured the Bobby Clarke Trophy for WHL leading scorer and snagged CHL leading scoring honours after a 126-point (61 goals, 65 assists) regular season.

Two-time WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player Brayden Yager continued to make massive strides along with his star teammates, finishing third in the playoff scoring race with 27 points

Between the pipes, WHL Goaltender of the Year nominee Jackson Unger stood tall with a 16-1-2 record, a 2.92 goals-against average and a 0.910 save percentage throughout the postseason, highlighted by a 37-save effort in Game 2 of the WHL Championship.

The workhorse netminder led the league with 35 regular-season wins and finished second in minutes played (3,133) and third in saves (1,593).

General Manager Jason Ripplinger was named the WHL East Division Executive of the Year after a number of key moves that ended up being critical to the team’s postseason success.

Ripplinger acquired Buffalo Sabres prospect Matthew Savoie in a blockbuster deal just ahead of the WHL Trade Deadline and added eventual Game 3 overtime hero Brayden Schuurman, forward Rilen Kovacevic, defencemen Vojtech Port and Kalem Parker and goaltender Evan May.

Savoie, who had fallen short of the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2023 with the Winnipeg ICE, made an impact from the jump with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) with Moose Jaw in the regular season, and another 24 in playoffs. His ninth postseason marker would clinch a Game 1 victory on the road in Portland.

The Warriors roster features seven current NHL prospects: Mateychuk (Columbus), Firkus (Seattle), Yager (Pittsburgh), Savoie (Buffalo), Martin Rysavy (Columbus), Kalem Parker (Minnesota) and Vojtech Port (Anaheim).

Starting netminder Jackson Unger is ranked 27th among North American Goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting in the agency’s final rankings ahead of the 2024 NHL Draft, while forward Pavel McKenzie is ranked 176th among draft-eligible North American skaters.

Established as the Winnipeg Warriors in 1980, the franchise relocated to Moose Jaw in 1984 and celebrated their 40th season in the ‘Friendly City’ earlier in the 2023-24 season.

Moose Jaw had previously advanced to the WHL Championship Series in 2006, where the team was defeated by the Vancouver Giants in four games.

The Warriors will represent the Western Hockey League at the 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow.

The Memorial Cup, largely considered to be one of the most difficult trophies to win in hockey, sees teams from the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League compete in a round-robin tournament to crown the Canadian Hockey League champion.

The trophy is dedicated to the memory of all fallen Canadian Military Personnel.

WHL teams have won the Memorial Cup a CHL-leading 19 times, most recently in 2014, when the Edmonton Oil Kings defeated the OHL’s Guelph Storm in the final match.

The 104th edition of the tournament is slated to take place in Saginaw, Mich. From May 24-June 2, 2024.

Previous WHL Champions

2023- Seattle Thunderbirds
2022 – Edmonton Oil Kings
2019 – Prince Albert Raiders
2018 – Swift Current Broncos
2017 – Seattle Thunderbirds
2016 – Brandon Wheat Kings
2015 – Kelowna Rockets
2014 – Edmonton Oil Kings*
2013 – Portland Winterhawks
2012 – Edmonton Oil Kings
2011 – Kootenay ICE
2010 – Calgary Hitmen
2009 – Kelowna Rockets
2008 ­– Spokane Chiefs*
2007 – Medicine Hat Tigers
2006 ­– Vancouver Giants
2005 – Kelowna Rockets
2004 – Medicine Hat Tigers
2003 – Kelowna Rockets
2002 – Kootenay ICE*
2001 – Red Deer Rebels*
2000 – Kootenay ICE
1999 – Calgary Hitmen
1998 – Portland Winterhawks*
1997 – Lethbridge Hurricanes
1996 – Brandon Wheat Kings
1995 – Kamloops Blazers*
1994 – Kamloops Blazers*
1993 – Swift Current Broncos
1992 – Kamloops Blazers*
1991 – Spokane Chiefs*
1990 – Kamloops Blazers
1989 – Swift Current Broncos*
1988 – Medicine Hat Tigers*
1987 – Medicine Hat Tigers*
1986 – Kamloops Blazers
1985 – Prince Albert Raiders*
1984 – Kamloops Junior Oilers
1983 – Lethbridge Broncos
1982 – Portland Winterhawks
1981 – Victoria Cougars
1980 – Regina Pats
1979 – Brandon Wheat Kings
1978 – New Westminster Bruins*
1977 – New Westminster Bruins*
1976 ­– New Westminster Bruins
1975 – New Westminster Bruins
1974 – Regina Pats*
1973 – Medicine Hat Tigers
1972 – Edmonton Oil Kings
1971 – Edmonton Oil Kings
1970 – Flin Flon Bombers
1969 – Flin Flon Bombers
1968 – Estevan Bruins
1967 – Moose Jaw Canucks

*Memorial Cup winner

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