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.

Bulldogs Edge By Titan

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan came into their last round robin game against the Hamilton Bulldogs at 2-0 in the 2018 Memorial Cup and were looking to clinch their way to a spot in the championship game with a win.

“Not so fast!” said Hamilton. The Bulldogs hung on for the 3-2 win at the Brandt Centre in Regina to improve their record to 2-1 and complicate things just a little bit.

The game opened with a Acadie-Bathurst goalie Evan Fitzpatrick making a beautiful save on Hamilton’s Isaac Nurse. Nurse had the entire side of the net open and Fitzpatrick dove across and made a save with the paddle of his stick. A great way to get things going in the game.

Hamilton would, however, get the first goal of the game, scoring on the power play 14:33 into the game. Noah Dobson had taken a holding minor at 14:11 and was in the box when Benjamin Gleason scored from Brandon Saigeon and Matthew Strome. That made it 1-0 Bulldogs.

Hamilton would double their lead a little under three minutes later at 17:27 when Nicholas Caamano scored from Mackenzie Entwistle and Robert Thomas. It was now 2-0 Hamilton and the Bulldogs seemed to have things in control.

Things seemed to be going the Bulldogs’ way even further when about five minutes into the second period, Entwistle hit the crossbar off the rush and Fitzpatrick had to scramble to cover the puck up outside of his crease.

Maybe that was a momentum changer because the Titan would get the next one, when Jeffrey Truchon-Viel scored at the 14:11 mark of the second period from Dobson and Olivier Galipeau. That cut the Hamilton lead to 2-1.

But the winning goal would come relatively quick. Just 34 seconds into the third frame, Galipeau took a tripping call, setting Hamilton up for another power play advantage. It was on that, at 1:04, that Robert Thomas scored from Gleason and Saigeon to make it 3-1 Bulldogs.

At the 3;44 mark, Acadie-Bathurst’s Samuel Asselin would beat Bulldogs goaltender Kaden Fulcher to make it 3-2 and set up a frantic finish. He got assists from Truchon-Viel and Dobson.

A crucial moment at the 4:16 mark of the third. Elijah Francis of the Titan clipped Will Bitten of the Bulldogs with his stick and drew blood. That set up a double minor four minute power play for the Bulldogs. It was crucial and the Titan would kill it off, limiting Hamilton to just three shots.

Entwistle would take his own high sticking penalty at 10:23, but that was just two minutes that the Bulldogs were able to kill. Entwistle would make things harder for his team a little later in the period when he took a tripping call with less than two minutes to play.

Interestingly, although the Titan would finish the game on the power play, they would not pull Fitzpatrick for the 6-on-4 advantage to try to tie it. There is a goals for/goals against formula at work in case of a tie in how things work out for the rest of the tournament and the Titan did not want to risk giving up an empty netter so Fitzpatrick stayed anchored to his net.

It was all for naught anyway, as Dobson took a slashing call with 16 seconds left in the game, the faceoff came down in the Titan end and the Bulldogs won the draw, letting time run out and getting the win.

Fitzpatrick ended the game with 31 saves on 34 Hamilton shots while Fulcher made 33 saves on 35 Acadie-Bathurst attempts. Thomas was named the game’s first star while Truchon-Viel was the second and Gleason the third.

Studenic ended the game with two shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating.

That ends the round robin portion of the tournament for the Titan and Bulldogs. Tomorrow’s “Battle of Saskatchewan” between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos (which we will be covering here) will go a long way in clearing things up in terms of who advances and who will ultimately lift the Memorial Cup.