Warriors to take on Wheat Kings in post season
The Saddle Lake Warriors breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday evening when the Onion Lake Border Kings defeated the St. Paul Canadiens, ensuring a fifth place finish in the standings for Saddle Lake.
The Warriors will now hit the ice against the Killam Wheat Kings in the opening round of the playoffs, which start this weekend in Killam. While the Wheat Kings will have home ice in the first round, the Warriors bested the season series, picking up three victories in four appearances.
Warriors Assistant Coach Ben Ross pointed out the team has found success against the Wheat Kings by limiting their offensive opportunities.
“Defence is going to play a big role in this series. We’re going to have to have a strong back end,” said Ross. “We have two forward lines that are very strong, so if we get them both working together we should be okay.”
Warriors’ defenceman Silas Makokis added that if Saddle Lake hopes generating a consistent flow of offense against Killam, it will begin in the defensive zone.
“We just need to play well defensively . . . Defence will matter big time against them, especially because our offense starts from our defence,” said Makokis, who finished the season with 16 goals and 20 assists. “Our offense has been flying and we’ve been getting good shots.”
Ross added that the Warriors top two scorers, Dallas Desjarlais and Tyler Haineault, have been key contributors to the team’s success against Killam this season, and he expects they will carry their prolific scoring paces over into the playoffs. Desjarlais posted 16 goals and 45 assists, finishing second in the league in assists and third in points, while Haineault finished third in league scoring with 30 goals.
“I feel very confident that they’re going to be probably averaging one and a half to two points per game,” said Ross. “I feel very good that they’re healthy, and I know that they will produce.”
While discipline issues are often at the forefront of concern for the Warriors, Ross said the team has been playing a very smart, defensively minded game, which he expects will carry into the playoffs.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good going into the playoffs. I’ve been telling the boys before every game to put their game face on and put their mind into hockey mode,” said Ross. “Play smart hockey, finesse passing. Yes lay the body, but make proper hits at the proper time, and make clean hits.”
Starting between the pipes for Saddle Lake will be none other than Dyllon Laboucan, who led the Warriors to a first round victory over the Vegreville Rangers last seasonwith a shutdown performance in Game 7.
“I feel very confident that we might get a few W’s out of (Laboucan) and even take the series,” said Ross. “I feel very confident, and I’m very happy that he’s healthy and on his game heading into the playoffs.”
Makokis agreed, and said the entire team feels very confident in their goaltender’s abilities, especially in high-pressure situations.
“We’re very comfortable with him in net,” said Makokis. “Since last year in the first round of the playoffs, he’s just been insane.”