Courtesy Keith Hershmiller
HERE WE GO AGAIN!! - What a tremendous sight!
As people filed into the Brandt Centre Friday night for Game 1 of the WHL Eastern Conference final, they were getting set to see a Pats team who had not been this far since 1993. I was not in Regina when that series against Swift Current was being played as I was working in Northern Alberta.
For me, I had not been in the building for Pats hockey this late in a season since 1984. 1984!!! Those that have been around for the history of the Agridome know the building looked a lot different then than it did now. Remember the big red bleachers in the east end! I could go on and on about how the building looked then to what it looks like now, but many of you have seen it and know exactly what I am talking about.
I even went up to my old seats where I had season tickets back in the day and looked down as the excitement in the building started to grow.
It's just another testament as to the type of job Anthony Marquart and Queen City Sports and Entertainmnt have done. They promised you a winner, and they have delivered. They promised you a product you would be proud of, and they have delivered. The goal isn't over yet though, and it may never be over. Every season won't be like this one and what next one will bring, but they had a desire to make the Pats the talk of the town in the winter and spring and they are succeeding.
I had a fan ask me Saturday night if the good times come to an end once the Memorial Cup is over and the team rebuilds. I said no. No one has a clue as to what the roster will look like going into the 2018-19 season, but QCSE isn't going to be content with letting this team slide. I think it is too much to expect 50 win seasons or even 45 win seasons will be the norm, but this ownership group is determined to keep the Pats a force to be reckoned with in the WHL. It may take a year to rebuild like Brandon teams of old, but they're not going away.
If you are a Regina hockey fan, you should be ecstatic with that.
Now to the series itself. On Friday night as the Hurricanes were putting the finishing touches on an opening game victory, I put out a tweet saying this series has 7 games written all over it. As the two teams head back to Lethbridge, I am still of that belief. That being said, Adam Brooks did a lot to cement that belief.
There isn't a lot separating these two teams. Like Jordan Papirny in the Swift Current series, the early story of the East final has been the play of Lethbridge goalie Stuart Skinner who came oh so close to stealing Game 2.. Lethbridge was the better team after the first half of the first period in Game 1, but the Pats were the better team in Game 2 outside of one bad minute in the 3rd. There isn't a lot separating these teams, and I think we knew that going in. The first two games have been outstanding. Games 3 and 4 should be classics as well.
ON TO ROUND 2 - And just like that, the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is over. What a first round it was. A record 18 games went to overtime to decide a winner including the elimination games yesterday as Boston and Washington moved on.
I hope those two young ladies wearing Caps jerseys celebrating at Maple Leaf Square are safe this morning after the Leafs playoff run came to an end. Despite the six game loss, there is a lot of optimism with Leafs fans, and there should be. Much like Edmonton, the young guns have given some reason for hope. While Edmonton is going to the 2nd round, I would expect the Leafs to be there next year.
As for Canada's team that was eliminated this weekend, it is brutally obvious again the Montreal Canadiens need goal scoring and established goal scoring that will come in the playoffs. Did Max Pacioretty have any impact in the loss to the Rangers? There was an outstanding question asked on NHL Radio about the Habs and offence. Would they sacrifice soon to be UFA Carey Price to get some. Price has one year left on his contract. There are teams out there like Winnipeg and Calgary who are in need of goaltending. Add Philly to that mix too. Would you trade Price if you could get a Schiefele, Monahan or Giroux. You would have to sign Price to an extension. It would be a gamble for all involved. For what its worth, I don't see Price going anywhere. This Oilers fan would not like seeing him in Calgary.
What do we see in Round 2. Well, we will get another Ovechkin vs Crosby battle. If the past is any indication, look for Sid and the gang to move through.. The other East semi has the Rangers and Ottawa. It was great to see the Senators win just for Craig Anderson and Clarke McArthur, but I don't know if they have enough to beat the Rangers---especially when Erik Karlsson comes out and says he is playing with a broken foot. Why would he do that?
In the west, the upstart Nashville Predators will play St. Louis and Anaheim gets Edmonton. I can see the Preds and Blues going the distance, and I can see the Ducks outlasting the Oilers, but if Cam Talbot is better than John Gibson, who knows! I can only imagine what satisfaction Todd McLellan had in eliminating the team he once coached in San Jose. Todd is too good a person to ever say anything about that in public, but in private, I am guessing he loved every second of that. Just like Nashville made a statement in sweeping Chicago, Edmonton made a statement by ousting the defending Western Conference champs and bouncing back from that 7-0 bootkicking they took in Game 4 to win 5 and 6. They even did it without Connor McDavid being a force.
OK VINCE - The Riders mini-camp is underway in Florida. All eyes will be on quarterback Vince Young. HC and GM Chris Jones tells Riderville's Ian Hamilton "“We want somebody who can command our offence and who can be the leader that we need for our football team. That’s first and foremost what we hope to see.”
It has been just over a month since Young signed. We have seen the video of him working out, but what has he learned about the Canadian game. Can he show the coaching staff enough to keep this experiment going. Time will tell. Of course, 620 CKRM will be right there as Rod and Luc will be doing Saskatchewan's #1 sports show --the Sportscage-- from Vero Beach, Florida at historic Dodgertown.
PAT C'S IN PRINCE GEORGE - Good luck to the Regina Pat Canadians as they start play at the Telus Cup in Prince George, BC today. The team was 3rd at the 2015 event, but only one player is on this year's team that was on the 2015 squad. I am not 100 percent positive, but I am guessing you can go to Hockey Canada's website to catch the Pat C's in action. If they don't have it, I don't know who will.
CAN I BUY A VOWEL PAT? - If there is ever a sports spelling bee, the name of the Milwaukee Bucks up and coming star has to be at or near the top of the list. For the record, it's Giannis Antetokounmpo, and thankfully that name is easier to pronounce than it looks. They call him "The Greek Freak", but I thought George Yannitsos had put a patent on that nickname.
BACK HOME -
Speaking of greeks, I can't even start to describe how good it was to see Peter Loubardias back inside the Brandt Centre as he called Game 1 and 2 of the East Final for SHAW and Access. Those who know me know the two of us are good friends, and those who know Pete know at this time last year, things were not going well for him health-wise. As you can tell, he has turned the corner and is back to living at the rink. He went from Anaheim to Medicine Hat to Calgary to Regina in the span of a week to call games and now he's in Lethbridge with at least one return trip if not two in the future. The two of us were room-mates for a couple of years when he started doing Pats games. Let's just say there are stories that won't be told and there was decadence aplenty.
Like someone else, he shouldn't be calling games in the WHL because he is too good for the league. However, I am biased!
That's all I got. Talk to you in the Cage at 4. Have a great week!