Saddle Lake Warriors playoff preview
The Vegreville Rangers (15-16-3) will have their hands full with the Saddle Lake Warriors (10-23-1) in this series. While the Warriors had a slow start to the season, the team truly turned things around in late December, posting a 6-8-0 record since Jan. 4. The Warriors managed a 2-3-1 record in the six-game season series against the Rangers, and will be aiming to improve on that in the first round by maintaining the disciplined style of play that has given them a strong competitive edge in recent weeks.
Wyatt Watson will be the biggest scoring threat facing the Warriors in this series. With 31 goals and 30 assists in 34 games played this season, the Warriors will need to be strong in limiting the amount of space he is allowed on the ice. Grayson Soprovich and Jonas Lopushinky will be two other names to look for on the Rangers roster, as they have been important contributors to the Rangers success against the Warriors this season.
Players to watch
Tyler Haineault has been a very consistent goal-scorer for the Warriors all season long, currently leading the team with 25 goals, and there is little to suggest his pace will slow down against the Rangers. While Haineault is the man with the scoring touch, the Warriors boast a variety of scoring potential, and will be looking to players like Dallas Desjarlais, Dylon Maton, Silas Makokis and Braedin Makokis McGilvery to really step up their play in this series.
Warriors goaltender Dyllon Laboucan will also be a name to keep in mind heading into this series, as he has been a big factor in the Warriors turnaround this season. Laboucan definitely has the ability to steal a game for the Warriors in this series, which may prove to be the difference maker.
Keys to success
In a word, discipline. The Warriors play their best hockey when they are focused on the task at hand. The ability to shake off a missed penalty call, refrain from giving that extra shove, or let some trash talk slide will be instrumental in taking down the Rangers in this series. The Warriors will have to stick the system thatís been giving them success, which means no selfish penalties.
Momentum will play a very important role for the Warriors in this series. While they ended the regular season with a 7-3 loss to Vegreville, they picked up 12 points in their final 14 games of the season, more than they managed in the first 20. The Warriors must recognize the momentum they have built heading into this series as a very threatening underdog, and use it to their advantage.
Vegreville and Saddle Lake have been closely matched all season long, so expect to see a very hard-fought series where a lucky bounce or a hot goaltender be the difference between scheduling a berth in the second round, and setting a date to clean out the lockers.
Saddle Lake in 6
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