Moose Jaw Warriors avoid elimination, force Game 7 with OT win over Saskatoon Blades

With a sharp-angle shot just under three minutes into overtime on Sunday, Moose Jaw Warriors forward Lynden Lakovic guaranteed one more game in what’s been an all-time classic series in the WHL’s Eastern Conference Final.

Lakovic let a wrist-shot fly off the rush 2:57 into the first overtime period at the Moose Jaw Events Centre, giving the Warriors a 4-3 victory over the Saskatoon Blades in Game 6 of their third round series to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 on Tuesday night.

Writing a new chapter in a remarkable series which has now seen five of its six games be decided in overtime.

“It just goes to show you what playoff hockey is all about,” said Lakovic. “Back and forth, this is the fifth game that’s gone to overtime, it shows that anything can happen. In a game like that you got to just throw it on net and hope something happens, and tonight it did.”

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Moose Jaw completed their third game-winning comeback of the series as they rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the third period after Saskatoon defenceman Charlie Wright opened the final frame with a go-ahead goal off a set-up by Trevor Wong.

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Warriors forward Rilen Kovacevic found the tying goal with 9:04 remaining in regulation off the far side boards, setting the stage for Lakovic’s overtime heroics to send the series to a deciding Game 7 back in Saskatoon.

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“It’s the hockey gods, I guess that’s what they want,” said Blades head coach Brennan Sonne.

It took Moose Jaw just 38 seconds to open the scoring on Sunday, with Brayden Schuurman burying a feed from Kovacevic on his team’s first shot of the game to take an early 1-0 lead.

Saskatoon was able to quickly respond however with an Egor Sidorov snipe for his league-leading 15th goal of the post-season just three minutes later, though Moose Jaw was able to close out the first period with Schuurman’s second of the afternoon scored from the slot to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes.

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Moose Jaw’s lead held until the late stages of the second period, which saw Blades forward Rowan Calvert score on the power play in his hometown to knot up the score at 2-2 before the intermission.

What followed was the lead being exchanged by Saskatoon and Moose Jaw in the third period, a sign of how close each game has been between the Saskatchewan rivals according to Lakovic.

“If we were to play this series 10 times, I bet you there would be a different winner each time,” said Lakovic. “We just look at each other and we don’t want this to end, we don’t change much and we just do it for each other.”

Warriors goaltender Jackson Unger picked up the win with a 30-save performance on 33 shots against in Game 6, while Saskatoon netminder Evan Gardner allowed four goals on 35 shots in the Blades crease.

Sunday’s Game 6 matinee now sets up a winner-take-all tilt at SaskTel Centre with the Warriors outscoring the Blades by the slimmest of margins 21-20 through six games.

“If you told me it was going to be 2-2 I would have believed you and you can say the same thing about 3-3,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary. “Both teams played each other so well in the regular season, we bring out the best in each other I think, it’s competitive. It just feels like the Western Hockey League, it’s just good hockey and why not play seven?”

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While Moose Jaw was able to stave off elimination, the Blades will have their backs against the wall for the first time in the 2024 WHL post-season on Tuesday with the winner advancing to face either the Portland Winterhawks or Prince George Cougars in the WHL Final.

“From my perspective I’m just focused on what we need to do next which is video, what we need to do better and come out with a desperation level to start Game 7,” said Sonne.

Saskatoon will have a second chance to advance to their first championship final since 1994 in Game 7, while the Warriors will be aiming to get back to the fourth round for the first time since 2006.

Asked if it felt destined the Blades and Warriors would need a Game 7 after six games of razor-thin margins, Wright agreed one game to decide it all was likely in the cards.

“Yeah, to be honest it did,” said Wright. “Obviously we were hoping to end it tonight, but things happen. It did feel like it was destined to go seven.”

Saskatoon and Moose Jaw will hit the ice at SaskTel Centre at 7:00 pm on Tuesday night for the deciding Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, with tickets going on sale to the public Monday morning.

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