The Regina Pats will play for the Memorial Cup on their home ice. The hosts of the 2018 tournament defeated the OHL champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs, 4-2 in the semifinal played tonight. They will now move on to the final to meet the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to crown the champions of Canadian major junior hockey.
Regina took the early lead with an Austin Pratt goal at 5:22 of the first period. He got assists from Emil Oksanen and Matt Bradley. Oksanen actually had a goal waved off in the first period that would have given Regina a two goal lead.
Early in the second period, at 2:59, the Pats’ Liam Schioler took a double minor for high sticking after basically cross checking Isaac Nurse in the face, drawing blood. Regina would kill that off, staying up by one goal.
But the goals generally came in bunches in this game. Hamilton would tie things up at 7:35 of the second. Nicolas Mattinen had that goal, with helpers from Benjamin Gleason and Brandon Saigeon. Devils prospect Marian Studenic had hit the post right before the Bulldogs tied things.
The Pats would then regain the lead at the eleven minute mark of the second. Cameron Hebig scored from Josh Mahura to make it 2-1 Regina. Things were heating up for a great finish.
Twenty-seven seconds following the go-ahead goal by the Pats, Justin Lemcke of the Bulldogs and Bryce Platt of Regina got into a scrap at center ice. Lemcke won that one pretty quickly in trying to fire up his teammates.
The Bulldogs would start the second period on the power play, but there was some initial confusion as to who the penalty was on at the time it was called. The whistle was blown when Hamilton touched the puck instead of when Regina did, but it was, in fact, the Bulldogs going on the power play.
The Pats would kill that off too, however. Neither team scored on the power play, with Regina going 0-for-3 while Hamilton went 0-for-4. A big part of that was the goaltending. The Bulldogs’ Kaden Fulcher made 20 saves on 23 shots in taking home the game’s second star honors while the Pats’ Max Paddock made 44 saves on 46 shots against. He was named the first star.
Fulcher would make a huge blocker save early in the third frame on Hebig that would preserve the game for the Bulldogs, but not for long.
At 14:05 of the third, Sam Steel scored what would be the game winner unassisted as Fulcher was knocked down coming way out of his crease and Steel shot into the open net. Hamilton head coach John Gruden was arguing goalie interference, but the officials were having none of it and we played on. Steel would be named the game’s third star.
Regina was up 3-1 now, but that would not last too long. Just 1:13 later, Will Bitten scored from Gleason to make it 3-2. Studenic followed this up with a breakway that was stopped by Paddock late in the third.
Hamilton pulled Fulcher with a little over two minutes remaining in the game and the Bulldogs made a good showing, but with five seconds remaining in the game, Steel grabbed the puck, rushed up ice and passed to Jake Leschyshyn. Leschyshyn buried it into the empty net and Regina had a 4-2 lead.
That held up as the final as the horn sounded on the Bulldogs season. Regina will now face the Titan on Sunday for the Memorial Cup. This will be the first Memorial Cup final without an OHL team since 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings won. It will also mark back-to-back years that the host team will play for the Cup. The Windsor Spitfires hosted last year and won as well.