Savoie scores in final minutes as Warriors claim Game 1 of WHL Final

The Moose Jaw Warriors have drawn first blood in the Western Hockey League Championship Final.

And in dramatic fashion, at that.

Matthew Savoie scored the game-winning goal with 3:02 remaining to give the Warriors a 3-2 victory over the Portland Winterhawks in Portland on Friday night, giving Moose Jaw a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The win also means the Warriors have stolen home-ice advantage, with Game 2 in Portland Saturday night and Games 3 and 4 in Moose Jaw Tuesday and Wednesday.

The two teams settled into a back-and-forth in the first 10 minutes, with the Warriors getting off to a great start, having most of the zone time in the first five minutes and the Winterhawks doing likewise over the next five minutes.

The Warriors ended up with the first power play of the series when Nate Danielson was hit with a high-sticking penalty at the 10:39 mark. Atley Calvert had a chance in close midway through the man advantage, and Martin Rysavy nearly jammed a shot home from the side of the net, but Winterhawks goaltender Jan Spunar would get the job done.

The Warriors got off to another great start in the second period, and they’d be rewarded.

Savoie sent a slick pass from the neutral zone to Calvert streaking up the ice for the breakaway, and the Warriors overager would draw a penalty shot on a hook from Luca Cagnoni before Spunar made a save on Calvert’s backhand.

Calvert would make no mistake on the penalty shot, though, beating Spunar low blocker side from the slot only 1:17 into the second frame,

Five minutes later, Denton Mateychuk made it a two-goal Warriors lead.

The Warriors captain broke in from the blueline and took a pass from the corner from Jagger Firkus before beating Spunar glove side for a 2-0 edge with 5:42 gone in the second.

Not long after, Spunar caught the Warriors on a bad line change and hit Diego Buttazzoni  with a breakout pass down the wing, and Buttazoni would make no mistake with a shot glove side from the right face-off circle with nine minutes gone to make it a one-goal game.

Firkus had a chance to restore the two-goal lead with six minutes to play in the second when he forced a turnover at the Warriors blueline and went in on a breakaway, only for Spunar to make a big glove save.

Savoie successfully drew a tripping penalty trying to split the Portland defence on a rush with 2:03 to play in the frame, and the Warriors would again have good puck movement but couldn’t find the back of the net.

The Warriors were hit with their first penalty seconds into the third period when Calvert hauled down Ryder Thompson, but the Warriors had two of the best chances, first on a breakaway by Brayden Yager and as the penalty expired when Savoie nearly finished off a two-on-one. All told, Portland would have no shots on the power play.

Portland still found a way to tie things up two minutes later. Josh Davies stripped the puck from a Warriors defender behind the Moose Jaw net and got the puck to the side of the net for Gabe Klassen, who’d tuck a shot home glove side 

A tripping penalty to Tyson Jugnauth shortly after the goal put the Warriors back on the power play, but despite a tone of zone time, they’d be unable to get the go-ahead goal.

Portland took over the period from there and hemmed the Warriors into their zone for long stretches, but Unger was able to come up with a handful of big saves to keep the game tied.

The Warriors began to push back later in the period and they’d be rewarded as time ran down.

Calvert forced a turnover along the boards in the Portland zone and got off a pass to Savoie in the right face-off circle, with his shot beating Spunar low blocker side with 3:02 remaining in regulation.

Portland pulled Spunar with two minutes to play and had the expected chances, but Unger would stand tall and the Warriors had their Game 1 victory.

Unger capped his night with 38 saves to earn the win, while the Warriors had 32 shots on Spunar.

Game 2 of the series is Saturday night in Portland, with puck drop at 8 p.m. Games 3 and 4 are back in Moose Jaw on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

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