Pats End Bulldogs’ Season With 4-2 Victory

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.

Pats Win Wild One Over Broncos

There was an avalanche of scoring in Regina earlier tonight, as the host Pats defeated the WHL champion Swift Current Broncos 6-5 in the quest to win Canada’s ultimate major junior prize.

One of the biggest reasons for Regina’s success tonight was their power play. They would go 3-for-3 on the night with the extra man while Swift Current would be successful twice out of five chances.

The first of those power play goals for the Pats came from Nick Henry 7:36 into the game. Artem Minulin was in the box for hooking. It was 4-on-4 as Regina’s Sam Steel was off for high sticking too, but his penalty expired at 6:28, giving the Pats an abbreviated power play. Henry would score, from Steel and Josh Mahura, putting the Pats up 1-0.

They took that lead into the second period, but Swift Current’s Glenn Gawdin took a holding the stick minor at 9:53 of the second and Cameron Hebig made them pay to give Regina the 2-0 lead. Steel and Mahura had the helpers on the goal scored at 10:29.

That was two goals, both on the power play for the Pats.

Swift Current finally got on the board when Gawdin scored 1:17 later from Aleksi Heponiemi and Artem Minulin. The Regina lead was cut in half 2-1.

But the power play was not the only special team that was on for Regina. The Pats’ Jake Leschyshyn took an elowing penalty at 15:38 of the second and Henry would scored shorthanded at 16:09 from Steel to make it 3-1. But that was not the end of that. On the same PP, the Broncos’ Beck Malenstyn scored at 16:32 from Gawdin and Minulin to make it 3-2.

Henry and Steel teamed up again to make it 4-2 Pats at 17:35 of the second. Henry lit the lamp while Steel again had the assist.

The penalties then settled down in the third period, but the scoring did not. Regina’s Bryce Platt scored from Matt Bradley and Hebig at 10:43.

Swift Current then exploded for two more to make it 5-4. First, at 14:22, Heopniemi scored from Giorgio Estephan and Sahvan Khaira. Then, at 17:11, Estephan netted one from Heponiemi and Malestyn.

The Broncos would pull goalie Stuart Skinner briefly to get a 6-on-5 advantage, but ended up taking a too many men on the ice bench minor. They kept Skinner out, allowing Libor Hajek to score the game winner with assists to Steel and Robbie Holmes. That made Regina 3-for-3 on the power play on the evening and put the Pats up 6-4.

But things were not done yet. With 55 seconds left in the game, Mahura took a roughing penalty for the Pats and Gawdin scored on the ensuing power play from Heponiemi and Devils prospect Colby Sissons at 19:10.

Time finally ran out and this wild game was over with the Pats winning 6-5.

Gawdin was named the game’s third star with two goals and one assist. Henry was the second star with a hat trick and Steel was the first star with a whopping five assists. In the end, Henry scored half of the Pats’ goals and Steel assisted on all but one.

Sissons had the assist for a point with four shots on net and an even plus/minus rating.

As far as the beleaguered goalies. Regina’s Max Paddock faced 31 shots and made 26 stops. Swift Current’s Skinner saw 28 total shots and stopped 22 of them.

With that loss, the Swift Current Broncos are eliminated from the 2018 Memorial Cup. The Hamilton Bulldogs will face the Regina Pats on Friday in a game to decide the opponents for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the Memorial Cup final to be played on Sunday. We will have coverage of that Hamilton game for you right here on Friday.