Five Takeaways from Regina’s opening night win
The Regina faithful went home happy on Friday night, kicking off the centennial celebration of the Mastercard Memorial Cup in fine style. Here’s a look at five highlights from a memorable Game 1 at the Brandt Centre.
1. The Regina Pats and their faithful fans were elated for their 3-2 victory on home ice Friday night, capped off by the game-winning goal from Colorado Avalanche prospect Nick Henry in the final minute. With the 1999-born forward in his second season with the Pats, he’s had the opportunity to score some big goals for the club. His last game-winning goal in a playoff game came back on April 14, 2017 at home against the Swift Current Broncos, resulting in another 3-2 victory. Interestingly enough, both goals were assisted by Sam Steel and a prospect of the New York Rangers. Defenceman Libor Hajek earned the honours for Friday’s goal while forward Dawson Leedahl stepped up with the helper back in 2017.
2. This is the second appearance at the Mastercard Memorial Cup for both Regina Pats defenceman Josh Mahura and Hamilton Bulldogs forward Robert Thomas, both of whom played at the 2016 edition of the tournament in Red Deer, Alta. Both were held without a goal in the 2016 edition of the tournament, but managed to find the back on the net in Friday’s contest. Could their paths cross once more in next Sunday’s championship final? This may not be their only high-profile meeting either, with Mahura a prospect of the Anaheim Ducks and Thomas a prospect of the St. Louis Blues. Another repeat visitor to the tournament is Regina Pats defenceman Aaron Hyman, who made his first-ever appearance last year with the Seattle Thunderbirds and was acquired by the Pats at the WHL Trade Deadline back in January.
3. If you’re looking for an exciting start to the Mastercard Memorial Cup, there’s no matchup quite like the opening game. Seven of the last eight opening games have been settled by a single goal, featuring identical 3-2 results in 2017 and 2018 that favoured the host team. The lone year to not feature a one-goal result came during the 2016 edition of the tournament when the London Knights downed the Red Deer Rebels by a 6-2 final. Of those seven winning teams, only two have gone on to win the tournament, the 2011 Saint John Sea Dogs and 2017 Windsor Spitfires.
4. As the Mastercard Memorial Cup shifts venues each year, there’s always the opportunity to celebrate a part of the rich history of junior hockey in Canada. There’s no explanation needed as to why this year’s edition of the tournament is important to the Regina Pats and their relationship to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and fans are able to partake in owning a piece of that history. Wearing new jerseys for Friday’s opening game, the aesthetically-pleasing jerseys are now available for auction at http://auction.chl.ca. Don’t delay though, bidding ends Monday, May 28th (9:00 p.m. ET)!
5. Goaltending can provide one of the biggest momentum swings at each edition of the Mastercard Memorial Cup and Friday’s tournament-opening game was no different. Max Paddock stole the show for the Regina Pats with 31 saves on 33 shots, earning the victory. Paddock’s role between the pipes marks the second straight year a team has gone with a rookie goaltender in net for the tournament following Carl Stankowski’s performance in Windsor, Ont. last May with the Seattle Thunderbirds. The last time rookie goaltenders appeared in back-to-back Mastercard Memorial Cups was exactly 10 years ago, when the trio of Matt Keetley, Michal Neuvirth, and Jeremy Smith all appeared in 2007 and Josh Unice appeared in the 2008 edition of the tournament.
While being bestowed the starter’s role in a big event certainly speaks to their composure at a young age, all previously listed goaltenders were unable to help their team hoist the trophy at the end of the week-long event. Can Paddock take the Pats to the max and help them hoist the trophy at home?