Warriors explode into CRJHL finals
The St Malo Warriors picked a great time to have one of their best periods of the season. After forcing a game seven in their Capital Region Junior Hockey League (CRJHL) semi-final series against Arborg, St Malo scored four times in the opening frame, as they cruised to a 9-4 victory March 20.
Tomas Maynard capped off the period with his second powerplay goal of the game, popping home a rebound past the desperate glove hand of Ice Dawgs goaltender Tre Strachan with 11 seconds to go. Strachan was forced to leave the game on the play due to what appeared to be a severe injury to his right shoulder.
Assistant coach Patrick Trudeau said he was impressed with the team’s ability to force a game six in front of a “wild” Arborg home crowd, and then all but finish the job in the first period of the final game of the series.
“We kind of controlled (game seven) from start to finish, which was nice to see from our boys, and get that momentum heading into the finals,” Trudeau said after the game.
Arborg attempted a comeback, even bringing the game to within three in the third period, but a missed penalty shot in the second period from Michael Crave may have been the difference between a final push to tie and St Malo running away with the game.
The St Malo arena was jam-packed with Warriors fans for game seven.
“(It was) our biggest crowd of the year by far,” Trudeau said.
“I can’t say enough good things about the community in St Malo, where they support all sorts of hockey, not just us. (We’re) very grateful for the crowd.”
It wasn’t just St Malo fans in attendance, as the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Niverville Nighthawks made the trip south to root on their junior B counterparts, and to lend support to Dayden Collier. The 2004-born forward from Medicine Hat, Alta. played 15 games for the Nighthawks, and is scoring at a point-per-game pace for the Warriors in the playoffs.
“Once we got Reece Unrau to the team, and added (Collier) late in January, we kind of took another step as a group,” Trudeau said, noting the team went on a great run, winning 17 of 19 games.
“I think it was good for the boys to go through this battle of seven games… We hope we learned those hard lessons and can apply them into the finals.”
The Warriors have a very young team for the CRJHL, with only one graduating player this year and one player set to graduate next year. Trudeau said that inexperience may have played a factor in falling behind 3-2 in the series.
“It came down to them outworking Arborg,” Trudeau said when asked what turned the series around.
“That’s as simple as it can be. They wanted it, they played hard.”
Trudeau noted the team is working hard to give their graduating player, team captain Cole Holdnick, a championship.
The CRJHL this season has been dominated by St Malo and their finals opponent, the Selkirk Fishermen. The two teams have barely lost since the beginning of December, finishing one-two in the standings. In the other semi-final, Selkirk swept the Lundar Falcons in four games.
There was no rest for the Warriors, as they started the CRJHL finals the night after their emotional game seven victory. St Malo dropped game one in Selkirk 2-1.
Trudeau said both teams should bring excellent offensive depth to the finals.
“I think we match up really well,” he said before game one.
“It will come down to who can minimize the mistakes.”
The series will head to St Malo for game two March 24 at 8 p.m., as the two teams are scheduled to trade hosting games back and forth for the seven-game series.