Ice strike early and often


Sometimes the best of intentions don’t amount to much.

You could say that about the fourth-seeded Moose Jaw Warriors, who came out Friday night eager to steal a game on the road in their WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series with the top-ranked Winnipeg Ice.

But the visitors surrendered a goal to Owen Pederson 18 seconds into the game and it was steep downhill descent from there.

Winnipeg outshot Moose Jaw 35-19 and piled up period leads of 2-0 and 5-0 en route to a 6-1 win before an announced crowd of 1,849 at Wayne Fleming Arena.

“We like to come out hot, we like to stress the first five minutes of periods so whenever we get a chance we’re going to come out firing,” said Pederson, whose club also scored 57 seconds into the second period and 11 seconds into the third.

The Ice hosts Game 2 in the best-of-seven series Saturday at 7 p.m.

“We talked before the game about wanting to make something good happen right off the hop just to give us that confidence,” said Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary. “All season long I thought like our best games were fast starts, where something good happens… (Tonight’s start) was tough to deal with.”

Pederson, rejuvenated after an injury-filled regular season, was back at it late in the opening period, getting the puck to Jack Finley on a 3-on-2 before the 6-6 centre completed the rush with his second of the playoffs at 16:50.

“I went through a couple small little injuries throughout the year, but I like where my game’s at the last couple of weeks and just gonna look to keep it going throughout the playoffs here,” said Pederson, has nine points in six playoff games so far.

Finley’s power-play marker was set up by a needless roughing minor assessed to Moose Jaw defenceman Maximus Wanner.

Jakin Smallwood pushed the Winnipeg lead to 3-0, converting Mikey Milne’s rebound for his fourth just 57 seconds into the middle period.

The Ice made it 4-0 on sensational quick-strike goal with a man advantage. Matt Savoie started and finished the play, relaying an outlet pass to Milne, who found Conor Geekie. Geekie then flipped the puck to Savoie, who steamed into the opening before tapping in his second of the playoffs.

The entire sequence was probably executed more quickly than it took to read the previous paragraph.

“I saw Geeks picking up speed through the middle and we’re supposed to finish at the net (and) drive the net,” said Savoie. “I just wanted to get as much speed as I can and go to the net. A great play by Mikey and then another good tap pass by Geeks. So a really good play by those two guys.”

Pederson added his fifth of the playoffs on another spectacular transition goal, set up by Finley and McClennon, at 14:25 of the second.

“What it came down to for me was the one-on-one puck battles,” said O’Leary. “I just thought for as skilled as Winnipeg is, I think the thing I admire the most is their work habits. When there’s a loose puck there, they hunt it down and they do the dirty work to get it and their skill takes over from there.

“If we’re willing to compete (in Game 2), like we usually do, we’ll give ourselves a better chance.”

Jackson Unger replaced starter Carl Tetachuk in the Moose Jaw net at the beginning of the third period and was greeted with a goal by Milne, his sixth, 11 seconds in.

Moose Jaw came close to scoring during a 5-on-3 power play lasting 1:45 midway through the third period, getting five shots and hitting one crossbar but Ice goaltender Daniel Hauser remained alert, finishing with 18 saves.

“You don’t know what you’re gonna get,” said Ice head coach James Patrick, referring to Winnipeg’s seven-day layoff after eliminating the Prince Albert Raiders in the conference quarter-finals. “You don’t know if after a week off (you’re) going to be a little rusty. There’s always nerves and butterflies before you play.”

Hauser’s shutout bid was spoiled by Brayden Yager with 2:12 left in the game.

Games 3 and 4 are slated for Moose Jaw’s Mosiac Place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

BLUE-LINES: The Ice were 2-for-4 on the power play. Moose Jaw was 0-for-4… Three stars: 1. Owen Pederson, Winnipeg (two goals, one assist); 2. Mikey Milne, Winnipeg (one goal, two assists); 3. Jack Finley, Winnipeg (0ne goal, one assist, five shots, 10-for-18 on faceoffs).

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Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky