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Moose Jaw Warriors reflect on experience at World Juniors

It was a wild journey for the Moose Jaw Warriors this holiday season, as they sent three players to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Defenceman Denton Mateychuk and forward Brayden Yager were the first to join the team, with Jagger Firkus added to the roster midway through the tournament.

Despite Canada’s 3-2 loss to Czechia in the quarterfinals, the players said the experience was one to remember.

“It’s pretty humbling to get the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf,” Yager said. “We didn’t get as far as we wanted, but it’s a great opportunity and I had a ton of fun.”

Yager ended the tournament as Canada’s second-leading scorer with two goals and five points through five games while tying the team lead with a plus-six plus/minus.

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Yager scored his first World Juniors goal against Latvia and added another marker against Germany before nearly scoring the biggest goal of his hockey career against Czechia, when a third-period shot had the goaltender beat but went off the post.

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“I thought I played pretty well and just playing a good, responsible game,” Yager added. “I played with some pretty good players too, which obviously helps with the offence.”

Warriors captain Mateychuk said it was an emotional week overseas but is happy to be back playing with his teammates.

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“It was a huge honour and a once in a lifetime experience,” Mateychuk said. “I just tried to soak it all in and it’s something I’m going to remember for a long time.”

Mateychuk led the Canadians in ice time with 122 minutes and 44 seconds through five games. He finished the tournament with four assists.

And while Firkus didn’t see the ice during the tournament, the trip was still something to build on.

“Just going there and seeing the atmosphere that they were playing in, it was pretty cool and special to go there,” Firkus said.

The Moose Jaw Warriors recently acquired Matthew Savoie who also saw action in the world juniors tournament.

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Mateychuk said the addition of Savoie is exciting for the team’s future.

“He’s a very special player, we’ve played against him a lot over the last couple of years and it’s a really big pickup for us,” he said. “He’s excited to get here and it gets everyone in the room excited and we know we’ve got a good team here.”

The Warriors currently sit third in the Eastern Conference.

Mateychuk and Yager will return to the lineup for the Warriors on Wednesday when the team hosts the Victoria Royals, while Savoie is expected to join the team later this week.

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