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Happy Wednesday Everybody!
ROUND ONE DOMINANCE - Before I get to a bit of a Pats Rebels round two preview I want to look back at the Pats first round win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. First of all, what a team performance. The Pats coaching staff put together a perfect game plan, the players executed and it took just 5 games to dispatch the Central Division champions. I always knew we had a great coaching staff here in Regina and this series proved why they are the best in the league. The Pats won the matchup battle, the 5 on 5 play and won the special teams matchup. Good coaching and good execution.
Having the best player in the WHL doesn't hurt either, Adam Brooks had 14 points in the 5 game series, almost three points a game and he leads the playoffs in scoring. He was named the WHL Player of the Week on Monday for his 9 points in three games to close out the series. He put up 5 in the series clinching game on Friday.
Not to be overlooked is the play of goaltender Tyler Brown. The 18-year-old played his best four consecutive games of his career in games 2 through 5, all of them wins. Brown posted a .956 save percentage in those 4 games with a 1.00 GAA and two shutouts. Overall in the series Brown put up a 2.00 GAA and a .938 save percentage. The two shutouts for Brown in the series tied a franchise WHL record for a single post season. He only needed his first four starts to do it.
Sam Steel played his best string of games of his career in my opinion in the series. The 17-year-old top draft prospect had 4 goals and 9 points in the five games. His draft stock is on the rise no doubt. He was responsible with the puck, made great plays and even brought some physicality to the ice.
Team defence was the most impressive thing for the Pats. They limited the WHL's second highest offensive team to just 10 goals and shut them out twice. 6 of those goals coming in game 1. It was everyone from the goaltender out, the Pats back end played incredibly led by Connor Hobbs and just smothered the top players of the Hurricanes. Brayden Burke, Tyler Wong and Giorgio Estephan were all held to ineffectiveness.
As for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, I imagine they feel a lot like the Regina Pats of three seasons ago when they won the East Division and then lost in four games to the seven seed Brandon Wheat Kings. It's a tough pill to swallow no doubt. However they certainly looked like a team who hadn't been to the dance before. It started in game two when their public address announcer called out the Pats Adam Brooks when he came out for his 1st star selection after the Pats evened the series. The background is that Brooks was named a star in game 1 but was not told by the Hurricanes staff when coming off the ice and therefore did not come out when his name was called. He was in the dressing room, getting undressed. The next night as he came out the PA announcer said "And tonight's first star, look who decided to show up, number 77 Adam Brooks." That was just the beginning. In game 3, Carter Folk laid a dirty hit, leaving his feet and hammering the head of the Pats Jared Freadrich. Folk was given 5 and a game, which was the right call and then Lethbridge Head Coach Brent Kisio went ballistic. Breaking sticks and losing his mind over the major penalty and the fact the replay played on the score clock. The Pats won that game. In game 5, the Hurricanes gave up 4, first period goals but battled back to get within 2 in the third. That's when Austin Wagner scored 4 on 4 to make it 5-2 and just as the puck went in, Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong skated into the slot, jumped off his feet and hammered Wagner in the head, leaving the Pats forward down on the ice. Wong was given 5 and a game and has since been suspended one game by the WHL. Another selfish play that cost the Hurricanes any chance at a comeback. Then once the Pats had won the series, Kisio left the ice surface and did not shake hands at center with the Pats, he was upset, I get that, it's an emotional game but that action reflects the play of his team. I honestly think they believed they would just walk all over the Pats and score at will. Lethbridge had a great year and they will be back in full force next season but in the words of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his conservatives. "They just weren't ready."
PATS VS REBELS - Now it's on to round 2 and the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup Host Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels finished just a point back of the Hurricanes in the Central Division. Again, like in round 1, this is a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the WHL. The Pats, since February 1st have compiled a 19-6-0-1 record in 26 games including the playoffs. The Rebels meanwhile have gone 17-9-0-0 since the start of February. 5 of those losses coming consecutively in early February and since the 20th they have lost just 4 games.
The Pats during the regular season went 2-2-0-0 against the Rebels, winning once at home at once on the road. The Pats scored 13 goals to the Rebels 11 in those four games.
Surprise, surprise, the Pats Adam Brooks led the way offensively with a goal and 6 points in the season series, Sam Steel and Chase Harrison each had 5 points for the Pats in those games. Tyler Brown was fantastic against the Rebels as well going 1-2-0-0 with a 2.04 GAA and a .944 save percentage. The Rebels Ivan Nikolishin had 5 points against the Pats this year, Michael Spacek had 4 and Connor Bleackley and Jeff De wit had 3. Trevor Martin was 1-0-0-0 in goal with a 2.48 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
The Rebels are dealing with some injuries heading into round 2. Bleackley, a first round NHL draft pick is out with a cut to his wrist, former starting goaltender Rylan Toth has been out since February 17th while leading scorer Ivan Nikolishin missed the last three games of the Rebels first round series with the Calgary Hitmen. Who knows if they will be back for this series.
During the regular season the Pats scored 243 goals and gave up 253, the Rebels scored 260 and gave up 205. In the playoffs the Pats have scored 18 goals and given up 10 while the Rebels have 16 goals for and 12 goals against. The Pats powerplay is 2nd in the WHL playoffs at 25 per cent and the penalty kill is 12th at 79.3 per cent. Rebels powerplay sits at 15.8 percent which is 11th and the penalty kill 4th at 85.7 per cent.
In the first round, Adam Brooks put up 14 points for the Pats, Sam Steel 9 points and Cole Sanford 8. The Rebels were led by Adam Helweka who had 7 points, Jake DeBrusk and Evan Polei had 5 a piece.
It should be another great series, it all starts Saturday in Red Deer at 7 o'clock on 620 CKRM. Games 3 and 4 in Regina are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 o'clock. Get your tickets!
AROUND THE LEAGUE - Round two is going to be fantastic. The Victoria Royals against the defending champion Kelowna Rockets. The top two teams in the U.S. Divison in the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Everett Silvertips. In the East, the Brandon Wheat Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors and then the Pats and Rebels.
Lets start in the East with the Wheat Kings and Warriors. Brandon finished their first round series in game 6 last night with a 10-3 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Warriors have been off since Friday when they dispatched the Prince Albert Raiders in game 5. Brandon went 7-1-0-0 against Moose Jaw during the regular season. Brandon scored 41 goals in those 8 games to the Warriors 25. The Wheat Kings scored at least 6 goals in 6 of the 8 meetings. Nolan Patrick led the Wheat Kings with 14 points while Jayce Hawryluk had 12 and John Quenneville recorded 11. Dryden Hunt showed up for 15 points for the Warriors in the season series whiel Marc McNulty was the next closest with 8 points. The Warriors are well rested and Zach Sawchenko in goal gives them a chance but I'm taking the Wheat Kings in this one.
Out West, the Kelowna Rockets are coming off a massive game 7 overtime win over the Kamloops Blazers on Monday. They advanced to take on the Victoria Royals who finished first overall in the WHL standings and needed 6 games to eliminate the Spokane Chiefs in round 1. Victoria was 5-2-1-0 against Kelowna during the regular season. The Royals scored 29 goals to the Rockets 19 in the 8 meetings. Justin Kirkland had 7 points for Kelowna in the series while Matthew Phillips had 16 for Victoria. Alex Forsberg had 14 for the Royals and Jack Walker recorded 12 and Tyler Soy 10. The Royals were without Detroit Red Wings prospect defenceman Joe Hicketts for the last five games of their first round series, he is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. That would be a huge hole on the back end in this series. This one is too close to call but I think the Royals find a way to advance to the West Final.
The other West semi-final will see Seattle and Everett go toe-to-toe. The Thunderbirds swept Prince George in round 1 and the Silvertips beat Portland in four as well. Everett went 6-2-1-1 in the seaosn series but Seattle won the last three and passed the Silvertips to win the U.S. Division. It was certainly a low scoring regular season series with just 39 goals scored in the 10 games. In 9 of the games at least one team scored 2 or less. Ryan Gropp has 10 points for Seattle against the Tips and Matthew Barzal had 8. Remi Laurencelle led Everett with 9 points and Cole MacDonald put up 8. I expect a ton of one goal games and for the Thunderbirds to take the series.
- Be sure to catch tonight's episode of Pats TV on Access 7 starting at 6:30. My guests this week are forward Sam Steel, defenceman Chase Harrison and Assistant Coach Brad Herauf.
That's all I have for today, have a great week and talk to you from Red Deer on Saturday night!