Jordan Weal is one of the most dangerous players in the Western Hockey League and he has certainly done some damage to the Moose Jaw Warriors this season.
As much as the Warriors and the Regina Pats tried to emphasize how important the Pats depth is to their offence, there is no denying that Weal fuels the Pats attack.
When the Warriors meet the Pats in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoff series Friday (7 p.m., Mosaic Place), Weal can expect to see a lot of Warriors shutdown defence pair Kendall McFaull and Dylan McIlrath.
“It all starts with Weal,” said McIlrath. “He’s a tremendous player and a great playmaker. You can see that with the number of points he got this year. You have to contain him and he has some talented wingers.
“Our job is to shut down the best lines on each team, so it’s going to be a tough task.”
Warriors head coach Mike Stothers has used McIlrath and McFaull against the opposition’s top line all season, but has been less particular about getting a specific forward match-up.
“I’ve never been much of a match-up guy,” said Stothers. “I think after 72 regular season games, everybody should be able to play against anybody on the ice. You can lose a lot of your focus and a lot of your momentum by trying to get your guys off of the ice.
“If you’re trying to match a checking line against their top line, that means your top guys aren’t on the ice that much. A head-to-head match-up of top lines doesn’t bother me at all.”
That being said, the Warriors 19-year-old rearguards are prepared to see plenty of Weal’s line.
“It’s a role I relish, trying to shut down other team’s top players,” said McIlrath. “Playing with Ryan Stanton two years ago in the series against Calgary was a great experience. Then last year against Kootenay, those were both great challenges and I think that made me a better player.”