EDMONTON — The Moose Jaw Warriors are a hard-nosed team that prides itself on hard work.
They knew the Edmonton Oil Kings' speed and depth were going to be challenge, but it was the fact they lost more than their share of the one-on-one battles along the walls that stuck with the Warriors after Game 1.
"They beat us at our own game," said Warriors left winger Quinton Howden. "We do need to be better in a lot of areas, but they just clearly wanted it more than us tonight
"They beat us on all battles, they wanted it more and they got it."
The Oil Kings looked to be the aggressor often as they used their speed to get on the Warriors and then try to battle for all they had when they got there.
"That's how you have to play against us," said Howden. "We're a hard-nosed team. They knew they had to be physical and they did that."
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal noted that with the addition of Henrik Samuelsson and the return of Travis Ewanyk — both six-foot-two — the Oil Kings got a lot bigger down the stretch and their maturing young forwards are being more physical.
"We've got some bodies up front that can finish some hits," said Laxdal. "A lot of teams have played us hard down the stretch here and I thought our guys have done a great job of hanging in there and battling through it."
The Warriors had been able to impose their will on Regina and Medicine Hat in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
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They know they need to win more battles and be harder to play against in all facets to earn a win in Game 2.
After nine days off, the animosity and intensity grew as the game wore on. The Warriors are expecting that aspect of the game to only escalate as the series continues.
"It's a mentality. We have to work on it at practice (Saturday)," said Warriors defenceman Dylan McIlrath. "That's our identity. If we don't do that, we're not successful. Tomorrow we'll get back to work.
"We have to be better. We have to hold ourselves accountable and pick ourselves up."
Laxdal expects sterner battles still to come as the Eastern Conference final heats up.
"We're definitely expecting a push back," said Laxdal.
"We know they're going to make adjustments, we know there's going to be some push back . . . but we just have to make sure we respond and focus on the way we have to come out."
The Warriors dropped Game 1 against Regina in the opening round and just set out going back to work. As disappointed as they were with the Game 1 result, they're not over-reacting to the loss.
"It's Game 1, it's not the end of anything. We have to get back at it on Sunday," said Howden.