It was loud and proud at the Brandt Centre Tuesday night, where the Regina Pats clinched first place in the WHL for the first time since the 1973-74 season.
“It was really exciting,” said defenceman Josh Mahura, who scored one of the Pats five goals tonight. “All the guys are just so, so thrilled and so happy for one another … it’s obviously a big accomplishment.”
It was an accomplishment that was in question, though, at least at the start of the game. While the first three minutes of the first period were dominated by Pats play, a turnover put Caleb Fantillo and Blades on the board first.
A few minutes later the Pats would find themselves on a 5 on 3 powerplay after a holding and delay of game penalty by Saskatoon.
Nick Henry took advantage of the two-man advantage scoring his 34th of the season with helpers from Adam Brooks and Connor Hobbs.
However, the Blades came storming back, scoring twice in rapid succession to put Saskatoon up 3-1 going into the first period.
But the Pats weren’t ready to roll over just yet, getting on the board within the first four minutes of the second. Jeff de Wit tipped in Brooks’ shot to bring Regina within one and the team did not let off the gas the entire period.
After a myriad of chances throughout the game, Sam Steel got on the board next with a beautiful unassisted goal to tie things up around the 13-minute mark.
Then with less than two minutes in the period, Mahura netted the third goal of the frame and put the Pats up 4-3 heading into the second intermission.
The third period didn’t see any scoring until the finals minutes of the game. A nasty high sticking penalty by Libor Hájek, put the Pats on the powerplay for four minutes. Connor Hobbs, with his huge slapshot, took advantage scoring the eventual game winner.
But despite being up 5-3 with about four minutes left, it would not be smooth sailing to the end of the game for the Pats.
Blades goaltender Logan Flodell was pulled for the extra attacker and then Mahura was tagged for a delay of game penalty.
Not long after Steel was given a cross-checking penalty that put the Blades on a 6 on 3 powerplay.
The final minutes were a little scary for the players, Mahura admitted, especially for him and Steel as they waited helplessly in the box, but for head coach John Paddock, he was more frustrated than worried.
“I don’t know if it was scary, to me Sam (Steel’s penalty) wasn’t a penalty in 100 years, so that’s probably what was bothering me the most,” Paddock said but added he was proud of how his players kept their composure.
The Blades would score one more goal with before the end of the game, but in the end fell to the Pats 5-4. The Pats now have 49 wins, tying the franchise record for wins in a season. They now have three more games to try and beat it.
“Everybody is obviously extremely happy and you think about it after you’ve achieved it, (but) there’s lots more that we obviously want to do,” Paddock said.
The Pats are back in action on Wednesday night at the Brandt Centre.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. versus the Swift Current Broncos.
- Sam Steel
- Adam Brooks
- Connor Hobbs