Warriors turn in dominant performance on way to Game 2 win in WHL Final

The Moose Jaw Warriors are coming home with a two game lead in the Western Hockey League Championship Final.

The Warriors put together as complete a game as they have in the WHL Playoffs on Saturday night in Portland, building a 3-0 lead before going on to an 5-1 victory over the West Division champion Winterhawks.

As a result, the Warriors can potentially win the WHL title on home ice, with Games 3 and 4 now in Moose Jaw on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

The Warriors got off to a similar start to Game 1, getting plenty of pressure early. That included a Lynden Lakovic one-timer from Lucas Brenton just as the first minute of play elapsed, but Winterhawks goaltender Jan Spunar got across to make the save.

Things settled into a back-and-forth from there, with both teams getting their share of zone time and chances and both goaltenders holding the fort.

The early chances finally paid off for the Warriors with 5:48 gone in the period. Calvert forced a turnover in the Moose Jaw zone and went in on a three-on-one with Matthew Savoie and Jagger Firkus, with Calvert eventually finishing off a give-and-go with Savoie.

Warriors netminder Jackson Unger had to be sharp over the next 10 minutes, coming up with big saves on Winterhawks 100-point man James Stefan and Detroit Red Wings first rounder Nate Danielson to keep Portland off the board.

The Warriors received the first power play of the game with 5:49 gone in the second when Portland’s Ryder Thompson clipped Firkus with a high stick off a face-off. They’d have a slew of scoring chances, including a partial breakaway by Savoie, but Spunar would make a handful of big saves to keep it a one-goal game.

Firkus nearly increased the lead to two seconds after the penalty expired, but Spunar would make a glove save and spin to snag the puck behind his back after it slipped free.

A couple minutes later, the pressure broke through when Pavel McKenzie took a feed into the slot from Martin Rysavy and beat Spunar low glove side. The 2-0 lead came with 9:12 gone in the period.

A hooking call to Kalem Parker sent Portland on their first power play with 6:40 to play in the period, but that was nullified seconds in when Firkus forced a turnover at the blueline, leading to Lucas Cagnoni taking a holding penalty to prevent a breakaway.

Moose Jaw then extended their lead with two minutes to play in the third. Firkus continued what had been an outstanding period for the WHL MVP by forcing a turnover at the Portland blueline and getting the puck to Brayden Yager for a short breakaway, with the Pittsburgh Penguins first rounder beating Spunar glove side to make it 3-0.

The Winterhawks would get one back before the period was out. Danielson snapped the shutout with 57 seconds to play in the second, pouncing on a turnover into the slot and putting a quick shot home.

The Warriors got that one right back 15 seconds into the third, and it was who you’d expect. Firkus scored his 13th of the playoffs, knocking the puck out of the air and beating Spuner with a shot from the right face-off circle for the 4-1 lead.

Moose Jaw kept coming as the period progressed, and an odd-man rush led to Firkus finishing off a give-and-go with Kalem Parker by putting home a shot from the slot with 5:35 gone in the period.

Unger finished his night with 35 saves, Spunar had 27 stops.

The Warriors return home Sunday afternoon, with Games 3 and 4 at the Moose Jaw Events Centre. Puck drop for both games is 8 p.m.

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