Jaw-dropping defence

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

No one has been able to shut down the potent Moose Jaw Warriors -- except the Calgary Hitmen.

The Hitmen largely contained Moose Jaw's explosive forwards in four games this season.

In three tilts -- all Hitmen victories -- the Warriors managed a single goal in each game. Veteran centre Riley Merkley will see a lot of Moose Jaw's top snipers in the Eastern Conference semifinal, which kicks off today (noon at the 'Dome).

"I'm sure Whitey's (Ryan White) line and our line will both be seeing a lot of those guys," Merkley said. "But they're all dangerous."

And that's what makes Moose Jaw, the highest-scoring team in the WHL, extremely dangerous. The offence isn't limited to one guy or even a single line.

Sure they've got scoring champ Troy Brouwer. But world junior star Dustin Boyd, a Flames draft pick, and Blair Jones also finished in the top six on the scoring charts.

As if that weren't enough firepower, Kenndal McArdle, a first-round draft choice of the Florida Panthers, Riley Holzapfel and Bjorn Svensson all finished with more points than Calgary's top scorer.

"It's not just one guy, it's three or four," Merkley said. "But I think we're up to the challenge. We did well against them this year."

Much of Calgary's regular-season success against the Warriors can be directly attributed to goaltender Justin Pogge, who gave up six goals on 108 shots.

The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect knows he'll need to be on top of his game if Calgary is to get past Moose Jaw.

He can count on receiving a helping hand from the biggest blueline corps in the league. And if the forwards are committed to their smothering style, the Warriors' snipers may grow frustrated.

"We have to take away their time and space and make sure we're physical with them at all times," Merkley said.

"Because those little mistakes are magnified in the playoffs, they hurt you even more."

Rookie Brett Sonne has continued to develop his game. He came into the league as a talented scorer but has bought in to head coach Kelly Kisio's defence-first scheme.

"He's a very mature player," Merkley said of the freshman centre. "You wouldn't think he was a 16-year-old in this league if you saw him on the ice.

"He can play against the top lines in the league and contain guys down low."

Sonne said he's just as happy shutting down an opposing sniper as he is filling the net.

"I think you're still the same player you always have been," he said of his development. "You just have to mould into the kind of player the coaches want you to be."

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GAME 1 TODAY AT NOON, 'DOME, TV: CH. 10


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