In hindsight, it might be the goal that saved the Pats season.
The Pats were being outplayed and outworked during game 6 in Swift Current. Early in the second period they went down 3-1. The team deflated.
Without a win the Pats dream season was over.
Then, some luck.
The Pats dug and got a goal past Jordan Papirny, then with 25 seconds left in the period Josh Mahura fired off a shot, and Vanscoy’s Wyatt Sloboshan tipped it in to tie the game up at three.
It changed the whole tide of the game, and perhaps the whole series.
Sloboshan said at that moment he could feel the momentum shift to the Pats’ side.
“I feel like I worked pretty hard and have gone to those places for a while now and I haven’t been getting rewarded too many times,” Sloboshan said. “Getting the reward there and tying (the game) was a great feeling.”
It was also the game that confirmed the Pats second line – consisting of Sloboshan at centre and Filip Ahl and Austin Wagner at the wings – was finally clicking.
Sloboshan was forced to step up onto a line he hadn’t played on all year when Captain Adam Brooks was injured. It took some adjusting for all three of them.
“Definitely knowing Wags (Wagner) and getting used to how fast he is, is pretty tough,” Sloboshan admitted.
“I think we really starting clicking in the last couple of games and hopefully we can carry it on.”
He’s not wrong about the clicking. The Sloboshan, Wagner and Ahl line is responsible for seven of the last 10 goals scored by the Pats in the playoffs.
And while Sloboshan had found his place in the Pats organization, it wasn’t that long ago he wasn’t sure he had a place in the WHL at all.
The journey to the Pats
Sloboshan grew up on a chicken farm west of Saskatoon. He was the captain of the Saskatoon Blades and had played his entire career there.
He was one of a lucky few players in the league that could live at home while living out the hockey dream.
In the wintertime, his uncle turned a chicken coop into an indoor rink where he learned to skate. His dad converted their tennis court into an outdoor rink and the young boy fell in love with hockey.
Sloboshan played his entire career with the Saskatoon Blades. He was named captain. He was happy and settled.
“Living at home and being able to play in the WHL was pretty awesome for me (and) definitely being out on the farm and being with my parents all the time,” he said.
But then he was blindsided.
“I thought I was going to stay (in Saskatoon) my whole career,” he said. “And then out of the blue one night, I’m gone. I’m gone to Spokane.”
The then 19-year-old was sent to the Chiefs in a blockbuster four-player trade. He had never had to live away from home, but there he was packing a bag and leaving to play in another country.
“I played there one game and it wasn’t right for me,” Sloboshan said.
He came home for Christmas break and decided he wasn’t going to report back to the Chiefs.
“I’ve been playing on a team chasing the playoffs my whole career and I kind of just had enough. I wanted to start winning somewhere. I wanted to go to a contender and be able to win,” he explained.
So Sloboshan made a very difficult phone call to the Chiefs organization to tell him he wasn’t going to come back and play for them. However, Sloboshan couldn’t just return to the Blades. He couldn’t play anywhere unless Spokane traded him.
Enter Pats head coach John Paddock.
“I talked to (Paddock) once before and he said they were interested but wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not and then on New Year’s Day, I think it was, that I (found out) I was here”.
For Paddock, the ability to pick up an available centre was hard to resist.
“I do believe if you have a chance, you never have enough centremen and you never have enough defencemen,” he said.
With injuries to centre Jake Leschyshyn in January, and the playoff injury to Brooks, Paddock’s decision to trade for Sloboshan became a vital one.
And for Sloboshan, it meant a chance at a championship much closer to home.
“Everyone is focused on one goal, and that’s to win,” he said.
“That’s everyone’s dream.”