(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) When the Moose Jaw Warriors needed him the most, Brody Willms came up huge during their second round series against the Swift Current Broncos.
It didn’t end up being enough as Moose Jaw lost out in seven games, but the 19-year-old netminder showed some huge improvement over the course of the Warriors’ playoffs run and stepped his game up when needed.
“I definitely think that I got stronger throughout the playoffs, starting with Game 1 in Round 1 was a bit of a disappointment, tough way to start it, but then for there, I was able to build on each night pretty much and this second round, I’m proud of the way that I played,” said Willms as the Warriors cleaned out their lockers last week.
The playoffs started on a bad note for Willms, who surrendered five goals on 22 shots in a playoff-opening loss to the Prince Albert Raiders. From that moment on, Willms improved with each game and in the end, stood on his head to extend the Warriors’ season.
“He did what we’d hoped in the playoffs, he got better as the playoffs went along,” said head coach Tim Hunter. “From his rough start, I challenged him, but I also challenged the whole team because we didn’t give him any run support and he just got better and better and that’s all you can ask of any player.”
Willms was the reason that the series against the Broncos went to seven games as he made 58 saves in a performance for the ages in Game 6, helping the Warriors to a 3-2 triple overtime win.
The Broncos scored some big goals in Game 7 to skate to the win, but Willms did all he could to keep the Warriors in the game, making 32 saves in the loss.
It was the Coquitlam, B.C. product’s first season as a starter and he showed it at times, but also showed many flashes of the goalie that the Warriors were expecting, like in Game 6.
Willms said he learned a lot over the course of the year that will make him a better player moving forward.
“Definitely a big learning year for myself,” he said. “First year being a starter and playing as many games as I did, you learn a ton throughout the year and especially these playoffs as well, you just learn another whole way to compete, the playoffs are a whole different game and I learned a ton during the regular season and the playoffs.”
Willms appeared in 54 out of 72 games during the regular season for the Warriors, posting a 37-11-2-2 record and then he started all 14 playoff games.
His 37 wins in the regular season were a new franchise record for the Warriors. He posted a 3.00 goals against average and a 0.898 save percentage.
In the playoffs, Willms went 7-6-1 with a 3.13 goals against average and 0.891 save percentage.
“You have to be prepared every game and keep your body ready to play 50-odd games plus playoffs, so it was a big learning experience for sure,” said Willms.
The Warriors had championship aspirations this season, but fell short in the end, Willms said he’s going to let that feeling linger for a while to help motivate him in the offseason.
“You definitely try to learn from all your past experiences and that’s a big learning experience, another two Game 7s this year, so we learned a lot about playing in big, tight games like that and will try to take that forward into next year,” said Willms.