The statistical high and low of the Moose Jaw Warriors regular season came on consecutive days.
After beating the Medicine Hat Tigers 6-0 on Feb. 17, they lost 6-0 in Medicine Hat the next night.
When the two teams square off in Game 1 of for their Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday (7 p.m., Mosaic Place), they both expect the games and the series to be much closer than their last two meetings.
“I think it’s going to be a long, tough playoff series,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers.
The teams split the season series with each team winning its two home games. That being said the starting goaltenders — Tyler Bunz for Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw’s Luke Siemens — haven’t faced each other yet this season. In fact Bunz has only played the Warriors once this year.
Bunz was sensational in their first round sweep of the Saskatoon Blades, while Emerson Etem dominated all four games. Toss in Hunter Shinkaruk’s offence and the Tigers have some of the best high-end talent in the league.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Warriors right winger Cody Beach. “As long as we can contain their top players, our depth should pay off by the end of the series. But we need to be aggressive. We can’t sit back.”
Those top players shone in the round one, but Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston says their win over the Blades was closer than it looked.
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“It didn’t feel like a four-game sweep. All four games they were right there,” said Clouston. An empty-net goal and a late power-play goal more the scores more flattering for the Tigers in the first two games. Game 3 went into overtime and Game 4 was scoreless for the majority of the contest.
“It’s very satisfying to win those close games. The guys competed hard,” said Clouston.
The Warriors are battle-tested after their five-game series win over the Regina Pats. While the Tribe are coming off of a win over their rivals, Warriors centre Cam Braes is looking forward to seeing the Tigers — his biggest rivals during his five seasons in Lethbridge.
“We’ve got to shut down Etem and Shinkaruk. They’re most of their offence. That’s a challenge of its own and probably one of the biggest things,” said Braes. “Special teams will be big. We did get a lot of opportunities against Regina on the power play. I think Medicine Hat will want to be more disciplined against us and their power play has been clicking really well.”
For more on this story read Thursday's edition of the Times-Herald