Warriors vs. Raiders: Series Breakdown
After being rewarded the Scotty Munro Trophy for winning the WHL regular season, your Moose Jaw Warriors are hot on the trail of a berth in the Memorial Cup.
But it's not going to be easy. They've got a lot tough competition ahead of them.
Their first series should be manageable. They'll be playing against the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Raiders snuck into the post-season by the skin of their country teeth and nobody really expects them to put up much of a fight.
The Warriors won the season series 5-2-0-1, but the Raiders have been known to up the tempo when the two teams collide; so if the Warriors get sleepy or complacent they could easily catch themselves in a world of trouble.
Offensively, the Warriors are much deeper. Jayden Halbgewachs is a 70 goal guy and Brayden Burke easily cleared 100 points, despite missing ten games. If both those guys are on the ice, that's a lot of fire power for the Raiders to deal with; and that's without mentioning some of the role players in the Warriors lineup that also score a ton of points.
Justin Almeida might be the most under-appreciated player in the league. He scored 98 points on the season.
Tanner Jeannot is another team favourite. A big presence on the ice with a lot of heart who skates hard every time he is in the game. Jeannot scored 80 points during the season.
Brett Howden, the captain and Team Canada World Junior veteran is another monster on the ice. He put up 75 points on the season and seems to connect with whoever they pair him up with.
Tristan Langan is another one who came on strong later in the season. He ended up being awarded the Warriors Most Improved Player as a result. Langan scored 42 points.
Plus the Warriors have great utility guys in Barret Sheen, Tristyn DeRoose, Ryan Peckford and Vince Loschiavo.
The offence is stacked; and the Raiders don't have nearly enough fire power to contend with it.
Prince Albert has a few studs on the team; Jordan Stallard was stellar all season, scoring 91 points. Cole Fonstad scored 73. Kody McDonald, Parker Kelly and Curtis Miske are dependable scorers as well. But they aren't the Warriors.
Defensively, the Warriors are tougher too. Kale Clague is a Memorial Cup veteran and a Team Canada World Junior veteran as well. You could easily argue that he was the best Defenceman in the WHL this season. He was undoubtedly the best offensive Defenceman. With 71 points, that's undeniable.
Prince Albert's top D man is pretty great too. Wojtech Budik, he scored 41 points himself, which is nothing to shake a stick at.
But Moose Jaw also has a defensive cast of five other studs. Josh Brook and Jett Woo are both dependable presences on the ice and Oleg Sosunov and Brandon Schuldhaus are impressive and intimidating giants.
Max Martin and Brayden Pachal are tough for Prince Albert, but they just aren't as strong as the Warriors D.
Where the Raiders might have the advantage is in goaltending, but even that is hard to decide. Ian Scott was tough to beat all year but Brody Willms was great too. If, in fact, the Raiders do have the goaltending advantage, it isn't enough that it change the dynamics of the series (like having Carter Hart in net could do).
Conclusion: The Warriors want it this year. I see no reason to think they would come out sluggish. Look for the Warriors to exhibit their dominance early on and don't count on them to slow down.
Prediction: I'm calling a sweep. Warriors 4 games to zero.
Other first round action in the Eastern Conference:
Medicine Hat vs. Brandon
Swift Current vs. Regina
Lethbridge vs. Red Deer
Game 1: Friday, March 23 @ Moose Jaw, 7pm
Game 2: Saturday, March 24 @ Moose Jaw, 7pm
Game 3: Tuesday, March 27 @ Prince Albert, 7pm
Game 4: Wednesday, March 28 @ Prince Albert, 7pm
Game 5: Saturday, March 31st @ Moose Jaw, 7pm, if necessary
Game 6: Sunday, April 1st @ Prince Albert, 6pm, if necessary
Game 7: Tuesday, April 3rd @ Moose Jaw, 7pm, if necessary