Moose Jaw Warriors
The Moose Jaw Warriors call it "grind time" and they've been enjoying a lot of it so far this post season.
The Warriors are a team built around speed and an aggressive forecheck from their forwards. In nine playoff games the Warriors have out-shot their opponents 356-to-203. They surpassed 40 shots five times and held their opposition under 20 shots in all five home games.
A big reason for the shot discrepancy has been their territorial dominance.
"We've really focused on getting pucks deep and trying to wear down their defencemen," said Warriors winger Sam Fioretti. "Edmonton has a good D corps and so we have to be physical on them. We want to make them play in their own end because a bunch of their mainly offensive D men."
The Warriors have some size up front, but it has been a collective effort that has produced such positive results off of the cycle.
"We have a lot of guys this year on our team who are unbelievably strong down low," said Warriors left winger Quinton Howden. "Some people might not see it, but guys like Sammy (Fioretti), (Cody) Beach, (James) Henry and (Cam) Braes — those guys down low on the wall are second to none. When they can use their body and protect the puck and get some grind time going it helps all of us."
The work to set up grind time begins well before the puck hits the end boards on the dump-in.
For a start, a good breakout from their own end and good reads by the defencemen have allowed them to break out cleanly — and more importantly — pick up speed through the neutral zone.
"It all starts from little plays in your own end," said Beach.
Fioretti credited the coaches for preparing them well for what they would face against each of their first two opponents. That makes those breakout reads easier and helps them find some open ice to use their speed. Finally if they decide to dump the puck deep, they need to keep it away from the goalie. Medicine Hat's Tyler Bunz plays the puck very well, but the Warriors did a good job of limiting his effectiveness.
"Overall we have good team speed, so if we can get the puck in somewhere we can forecheck on it and be physical on them it should allow us to keep the puck in the zone," said Howden.
Then it comes down to desire, will and competitiveness to start winning one-on-one battles.
"I'm a smaller guy, but I do enjoy battling and being physical," said Fioretti. "It's always been a part of my game, but I'm trying to do it more and trying to do it better.
"It's all about the guy who wants to win the battle more. It's a mindset."