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'One more trophy to win': Warriors prepare for Memorial Cup

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Tuesday marked the final practice for the Moose Jaw Warriors before they head to Saginaw, Mich. for the 2024 Memorial Cup.

Six days ago the team celebrated their historic Western Hockey League (WHL) Championship on the same ice after sweeping the Portland Winterhawks.

“The city has been electric obviously it’s a pretty exciting time,” said forward, Brayden Yager. “Especially just hanging out with the group and seeing the reaction of the city everywhere we go. Everybody’s giving us congratulations and wishing us luck at the Memorial Cup.”

Captain Denton Mateychuk said while it’s been “a blast” celebrating the historic win – its now time to lock back in.

“It’s been a lot of fun. But, you know, now it’s time to focus back up. We’ve been in the rink the last couple of days. So kind of getting back into the mood of the game,” he added.

A new goal has been set for the team as they look to bring a Memorial Cup Title back to Saskatchewan for the first time in over three decades.

“It’s a bit of a weird feeling. It’s different than anything we’ve ever really done so we’re pretty excited. It’s just extended hockey which we all love,” Mateychuk explained.

“Kind of the last couple of days it’s starting to sink in. Obviously you know all the celebrating now we’re getting ready for the biggest tournament. Obviously we’ve got one more trophy to win,” exclaimed Yager.

For the first time in history all three Major Junior Hockey Leagues in Canada swept their championship series and the Warriors are grateful for the extra rest heading into the tournament.

“Especially when you look at the other side. There’s no excuses from that side. Everybody’s fresh, everybody has the same amount of rest,” said Head Coach, Mark O’Leary. “Obviously the more you have to play is more energy drained so we appreciate more rest for sure.”

Despite the fact the Warriors will be playing teams they have not faced before – they say the prep work stays the same.

“I enjoy watching video just to see what they’ve been up to. But I mean preparation stays the same. We’ve been playing new teams all playoffs really so nothing really changes for me,” goalie, Jackson Unger explained.

“We’ve watched a little bit of film but I think our minds are caught up in the tournament. We’re just there to play our game,” Yager said.

But for players like Yager and Mateychuk and a few more on the Warriors squad, they have had an opportunity to play with some members of the other three squads at Hockey Canada events and tournaments.

“A lot of guys on London, Gauthier a Drummondville, and even a couple guys off Saginaw [we’ve played with] so a couple of familiar faces,” Yager said. “It’s going to be fun obviously. I know the types of players they are and what a challenge they are to go against.”

Now that the team has reached another step in their season they’ve decided to go with a new look for Memorial Cup.

“Guys’ beards were getting pretty long so we were like ‘Should we switch it up for Memorial Cup?’ So the guys decided lets do ‘Memorial Cup Muzzies’ so that’s what we sat on and I think we look pretty good with it,” Mateychuk laughed.

The Warriors will face off against the host, Saginaw Spirit, to open the tournament on Friday. All of the action will be broadcast on TSN.

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