The Moose Jaw Warriors just completed their best regular season in franchise history.
They enter the playoffs with heightened expectations on their shoulders from a fan base which believes this could finally be their year.
The Warriors aren’t worried about any of that. All they’re worried about is tonight’s opening game of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Regina Pats (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).
“It’s the same at is always is,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “We prepare the same way and we go out and try to play hard for 60 minutes.
“I think anytime you get in the playoffs you’re starting fresh. You’re equals. The season series was split right down the middle and I don’t think anyone has a definitive advantage. It’s two teams that play hard and it’s a series I think is going to be a long, tough one.”
In their eight regular season games, each team won twice in regulation and twice in overtime. Six of those eight games were decided by one goal. Those tight contests have the Warriors preparing for a gruelling battle. That has kept them focused on the here and now and not dwelling on the big picture.
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“We know exactly how they’re going to play. They play hard every night and they’re a good team. They’re good in their home barn — and so are we — but you have to give them credit for what they accomplished this year,” said Warriors right winger Cody Beach. “A lot of people at the start of the year thought they were rebuilding, but the pieces they added to their puzzle has really made their team a complete team.”
The teams split their final two games of the regular season two weeks ago despite the Warriors out-shooting the Pats 84-42 over those games. Pats head coach Pat Conacher knows they can’t suffer the same type of territorial disadvantage and survive the series.
“In those two games I didn’t think we did a good enough job sustaining a forecheck or with our puck management,” said Conacher. “It’s so hard to get, you have to do a better job of not giving it back up again. We can’t just give them time on the puck so they can create something.”