Ice look to put Warriors on ice
Can wrap up series against Moose Jaw with victory Friday
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Winnipeg Ice head coach James Patrick would prefer to put the wraps on his club’s WHL Eastern Conference semifinal against the Moose Jaw Warriors with a decisive win in Game 5 at Wayne Fleming Arena Friday night.
His counterpart, Mark O’Leary, wants the pesky Warriors to extend the series to Game 6 back at Moose Jaw’s Mosaic Place and beyond.
Winnipeg subdued Moose Jaw with a 5-3 victory in Wednesday’s Game 4 and holds a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven affair. Game time Friday is 7 p.m.
“If we would’ve had a little bit of puck luck (Wednesday) night the series could’ve been tied,” said O’Leary by phone as the Warriors travelled to Winnipeg Thursday. “We play better at home for sure but we found our game in Game 3 and I thought we were even better in (Game) 4. I think we’re looking forward to the job back in Winnipeg.”
Patrick was impressed with his club’s bounce-back after losing 3-2 in Tuesday’s Game 3.
“I really felt we showed that we could get in and play the way we had to,” said Patrick. “And I thought (Wednesday) night was a perfect example of just every guy, especially on the forward group, got on the defensive side of the puck, they blocked shots, no one was cheating and they played the system.”
The Warriors will need to be better than Games 1 and 2 to have a chance after lost the two outings by a combined scored of 13-1.
In Game 3, Moose Jaw did not allow a goal during a five-minute charging major to Robert Baco to emerge with a 3-2 win. Baco’s hit levelled Jakin Smallwood and the overage Ice forward missed Game 4 and is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Ice have adapted to the absence of the versatile Smallwood.
“Skyler (Bruce) took his spot on the power play and we’ve gotten that (kind of help) all year long,” said Patrick. “We only had one penalty kill and so it didn’t effect that but it was going to affect who was coming out next. But the fact that (the Warriors) only went with 11 forwards and then quickly went to three lines, that forced us to go to three lines in the matchup. Without having Jakin there it probably dropped us into that kind of response.”
The Ice will be wary of Warriors sniper Jagger Firkus, who has struck for three goals in the last two games.
“We were aware of his talent and ability before — he’s had a great year,” said Patrick. “He’s played well in thir series previous to ours. Obviously, it’s a game of matchups. But this time of year when they get the last change (on home ice), it does change things a bit.”
Moose Jaw has its own injury issues, with all-star defenceman Daemon Hunt listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He has not played since March 19.
“He’s skating,” said O’Leary. “It’s a matter of whether he feels comfortable playing or not.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.