Warriors use steady pressure, solid goaltending to take win over Blades in Game 3

 The Moose Jaw Warriors have regained the series lead in the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference final.

The Warriors turned in a solid showing from start to finish, limiting Saskatoon’s chances through the first two periods before hanging on for a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

The Warriors celebrate after Atley Calvert scored the game-tying goal in the second period. Nick Pettigrew

The game was the first in the series not to go to overtime, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a battle throughout.

The Warriors got off to a fantastic start in front of the 4,483 in attendance, with a handful of chances in the first three minutes — including a great opportunity when Atley Calvert walked out from behind the net and got off a shot that just missed top corner glove side.

Calvert had another golden chance a few minutes later when a rebound to the side of the net found the Moose Jaw Minor Hockey product, but his quick shot would go through the crease along the goalline.

Moments later, Saskatoon had the first goal of the game.

Grayden Siepmann got off a slap shot from the point that found the top corner untouched, giving the Blades a 1-0 lead 10:50 into the game.

A holding penalty to Calvert with 3:22 to play in the period gave Saskatoon a chance to increase their lead, but the Warriors would limit the Blades’ chances and escape the frame trailing by one.

Moose Jaw received their first power play 3:24 into the second when William James hooked Brayden Schuurman in the Blades zone, and Calvert would find a way to tie the game.

A Denton Mateychuk rebound found the Prairie Hockey Academy grad in front of the net, and he’d bank the puck off Tanner Molendyk at the top of the crease and in with 3:43 gone.

Jagger Firkus nearly gave the Warriors their first lead two minutes later, but his shot from the slot would go off the crossbar.

Saskatoon had little zone time as the period progressed, and it showed on the shot clock, as Moose Jaw outshot the Blades 21-11 through the first half of the game. In fact, Saskatoon would have only three shots on net through the first 15 minutes of the period before getting a handful of chances late.

The Blades nearly got the go-ahead goal with 1:14 remaining in the period when a shot deflected in front and was on its way in, only to have Mateychuk sweep the puck out of the crease at the last second.

A high-sticking penalty to Lukas Hansen put the Warriors on their second power play of the game 48 seconds into the third, and Moose Jaw had a great chance to take the lead on a Firkus one-timer early in the man-advantage, only for Evan Gardner to get across and make a huge pad save.

From that point on, it was the Jackson Unger show.

The Warriors’ 18-year-old goaltender had to come up big shortly after the penalty expired when a slick passing play saw Easton Armstrong left alone in the slot, but a pad save kept things tied.

Some great puck movement by Matthew Savoie and Firkus led to Martin Rysavy getting the puck in the slot with a wide-open net, and he’d make no mistake, giving Moose Jaw a 2-1 lead at the 7:14 mark of the final frame.

Saskatoon had a chance to get that back when Rysavy took a penalty for tripping Brandon Lisowsky, but some solid work on the penalty kill and a couple of saves by Unger maintained the lead.

A minute after the man advantage ended, Saskatoon had a great chance to take the lead when a loose puck found a wide-open Charlie Wright at the side of the net, only for Unger to make the save of the game by diving across to make a miraculous glove stop that drew a sustained cheer from the crowd.

Saskatoon pulled Gardner for the extra attacker with 2:26 to play in regulation, but Mateychuk would bank a clearing attempt off the boards in the Warriors zone, down the ice and in for the 3-1 lead.

That’s how things would finish up, and the Warriors had their win and the series lead.

Unger finished with 31 stops on the night, while Gardner was solid in how own right with 29 saves.

The teams are right back at it on Wednesday night for Game 4, with a handful of standing room only tickets remaining. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

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