The Regina Pats are getting closer to their ultimate goal of raising the Memorial Cup but a tough Hamilton Bulldogs team now stands in their way.
After the Pats defeated the Broncos in the final round-robin game of the tournament, the team earned a day off before the semi-finals on Friday.
The Bulldogs and Pats met in the first round of the tournament last Friday, with Regina skating away as the victors after a last-minute goal from Nick Henry to win 3-2.
Head Coach John Paddock anticipates both teams will be sharper in the second meeting.
“They say their game wasn’t very good then, I don’t think ours was at the peak either after being off for 45 days,” Paddock said. “We know they’re a good team.”
Since the loss to the Pats, the Bulldogs have seemingly found their stride, defeating the Broncos and Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
One Pats player who has taken his game to a new level has been captain Sam Steel. Following his five-point game against Swift Current, Steel leads the entire tournament in points with 11.
“This is really emotional hockey and everybody’s really selling out and it’s good to get a day off just to recuperate,” Steel said.
Steel said the team has been playing fast and having fun, which has made it easier to perform the way he has been throughout the tournament. And he fully anticipates both teams will come out firing.
“It’s probably one of the biggest games all the guys are going to play in and it’s just going to come down to who wants it more,” Steel said.
For Matt Bradley, he believes the biggest thing the Pats need to do is play hard for the entirety of the game.
“That’s been our biggest thing this tournament. They’re a powerful team, they’ve got a lot of offense up front there and we got to weather that storm and play our game,” Bradley said.
One of the things that could work in the Pats’ favour is their long break before the tournament began.
“We’re fresh right now, we’ve worked hard for the past six weeks and we’re ready to go, we’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time so we’re looking to capitalize on that and really push them in this next game,” Bradley said.
The game will get underway at 8 p.m. Friday. The winner will go on to face the Titan in the finals on Sunday.