Five Takeaways from a hard-fought Semi-Final
Following another exciting game at the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, the host Regina Pats are bound for a rematch with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in Sunday’s championship final after defeating the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
1. The Western Hockey League improved to 6-5 in head-to-head matches in the Semi-Final of the Mastercard Memorial Cup against the Ontario Hockey League following Regina’s 4-2 defeat of the Hamilton Bulldogs Friday night.
Since 1972, the WHL and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have met nine times in the championship final of the Mastercard Memorial Cup with the WHL winning seven of those matches. The most recent meeting saw the Halifax Mooseheads defeat the Portland Winterhawks in 2013, but the WHL owns the next three most recent meetings with victories by the Kelowna Rockets in 2004, Kootenay ICE in 2002 and Red Deer Rebels in 2001.
While that doesn’t play into the favour of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, another stat does. In the past 10 editions of the Mastercard Memorial Cup, the team winning the round-robin contest between the two has gone on to win the rematch in the championship final nine of the 10 times. The only team to buck this trend were the 2014 Edmonton Oil Kings, who lost the round-robin matchup to the Guelph Storm before defeating them in the championship final days later.
2. Max Paddock put forth another incredible performance, stopping 44 of 46 shots in the game, leading all goaltenders with 127 saves. Barring a lopsided performance in Sunday’s championship final, Paddock will finish with the most saves at the tournament.
The last WHL goaltender to lead the tournament in saves was Mac Carruth with the Portland Winterhawks in 2013 when he made 152 saves at the tournament.
3. With Regina making it to Sunday’s championship final, it marks the first time since 2011 and 2012 editions of the Mastercard Memorial Cup that the host team made it to the championship final in back-to-back tournaments.
Of the last 10 occasions of the host team making it to the championship final, they’re 5-5 in those games, with their last win coming via the Windsor Spitfires last year. The last WHL host to capture the Mastercard Memorial Cup on home ice were the 2007 Vancouver Giants.
4. Sam Steel continued his torrid scoring pace at the Mastercard Memorial Cup recording a fourth straight multi-point performance with a goal and an assist. The Anaheim Ducks prospect leads the tournament with 13 points contributing to over 68% of all Pats goals (19).
The last tournament top scorer to factor so heavily into team success was Jamie Benn of the Kelowna Rockets in 2009 with nine points on 12 team goals (75%). Steel is also just the third player in 20 years to reach 13 points in a single tournament equaling Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads in 2013, and one behind Mitch Marner’s 14 for the London Knights in 2016. The all-time record is 16 shared by Jeff Larmer of the Kitchener Rangers (1982) and Guy Rouleau of the Hull Olympiques (1986).
5. Friday’s game not feature a goal scored via special teams. It was the first time that’s happened at the Mastercard Memorial Cup since the Saint John Sea Dogs’ 7-0 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds on May 23, 2017.
With 17 combined goals scored on special teams at the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup so far, it marks the third time in the past four tournaments that goals via special teams have accounted for more than 30 per cent of the goals at the tournament.
The lone exception to this stat was the 2017 tournament when 27.69 per cent of the goals came via special teams. The highest percentage of special teams goals scored over the past five seasons also came while the tournament was out west, when 42.31 per cent of the goals scored at the 2016 edition of the tournament in Red Deer, Alta. came via the power-play or short-handed goals.