The 2018 Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup began at 10 PM here on the East Coast yesterday with the champions of the Ontario Hockey League, the Hamilton Bulldogs taking on the host Regina Pats. The Bulldogs feature Devils prospect Marian Studenic.
The hometown Pats, playing in their Brandt Centre rink in Regina, Saskatchewan, won 3-2 on a goal with 33 seconds remaining in the game. Studenic did register a goal in the contest.
Hamilton took the early 1-0 lead when Robert Thomas scored 7:49 into the game off assists from Justin Lemcke and Matthew Strome. Less than a minute later, at 8:58 of the first, Studenic took a checking from behind penalty to put Regina on the power play. Hamilton would kill that off, however.
Penalties were a theme for the Bulldogs. They gave the Pats four power plays, allowing them to hang around in a game that Hamilton could have won, as we shall see.
The first period ended with Hamilton’s Connor Walters taking a holding call that would lead to Regina going on the power play with 13 seconds left in the first frame. The majority of the power play would be on fresh ice in the second period and it only took the Pats 19 seconds in to score. Sam Steel tied things up at one from Josh Mahura and Nick Henry. Regina ended the night 1-for-4 on the power play while the Bulldogs were 0-for-2.
The game settled in tied at one for most of the second period and then in a flurry, both teams would add a goal. Studenic scored for the Bulldogs at 13:14 of the second from Riley Stillman and Ryan Moore to give Hamilton the 2-1 lead.
Then, just 2:16 later, Mahura scored unassisted to tie things at two. The game would remain tied and we seemed destined for overtime until 17:43 of the third period when Sam Steel won a crucial faceoff. Possession of the puck would lead to Nick Henry scoring at the 19:27 mark of the third period from Libor Hajek and Steel.
In the blink of an eye, Regina had stolen one from Hamilton, 3-2. The Bulldogs would quickly pull their goalie for the extra attacker off of the ensuing faceoff, but it was to no avail.
Hamilton goaltender Kaden Fulcher made 27 saves on 30 shots while Regina’s Max Paddock made 31 saves on 33 shots in getting the win. The Bulldogs’ Thomas was named the game’s third star while Henry (second star) and Mahura (first star) took the honors for Regina.
Studenic had the goal for a point on his lone shot on goal and an even plus/minus rating, plus the two penalty minutes back in the first period.
Hamilton next takes on another Devils prospect, Colby Sissons and the Swift Current Broncos, the winners of the Western Hockey League. That game is on Monday, May 21.
In the meantime, we will have coverage of the IIHF World Championships semifinals (USA versus Sweden and Switzerland versus Canada) later today as well as Swift Current’s first Memorial Cup game against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.