Outside the locker room the Pats had their share of doubters, but inside they had confidence.
Behind 3-1 in a best of seven series against their division rivals, many thought the Pats would make an early exit from the playoffs.
Monday night, in front of a rambunctious 6,484 fans, the Regina Pats proved all their doubters wrong, beating the Broncos 5-1 to secure their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“There wasn’t a lot of doubt in there,” said Sam Steel, who scored two goals in the win. “We’re a confident group and we all believed and we did the things we know if we do it we’ll win. I’m really proud of the guys.”
The game started off on the right foot with Steel himself getting on the board just two minutes into the first period, and it wasn’t long after Filip Ahl followed it to put the Pats up 2-0.
Head coach John Paddock said it was exactly what the team needed early in a game seven and, paired with some big timely powerplay saves from Tyler Brown, things were looking really good for the Pats going into the second period.
That’s where the Pats goaltender continued to shine. Brown was often criticized for his performance in the regular season, but there was no denying over the last three games his impact on the ice.
“He’s playing his best hockey right now and we know that,” said forward Austin Wagner. “We trust him, we know he’s going to make those stops.”
“He was right there when it was needed, absolutely,” added Paddock.
Brown’s shutout was spoiled late in the third period with the Broncos only goal of the game, a powerplay goal by Connor Chaulk, but in the end, the win mattered more.
“We knew we weren’t ready to go home yet,” Brown said. “There’s been that expectation of making it all the way. We know that’s there and we just want to accomplish that.”
The Pats essentially slammed the door on the Broncos in the second period with goals from Steel and Wagner to put the team up 4-0. The third period was a series of penalty kills for both teams, with one eventually leading to an empty netter by Wagner to seal the deal for Regina and give him his tenth goal of the playoffs.
The Pats will now head to the eastern conference finals, and their opponent – either Lethbridge or Medicine Hat – will be determined after those teams play their own game seven Tuesday night.
Paddock said he’s not hoping for one team over the other, though he does hope for something.
“About three overtime periods and after that, I don’t care,” he said.
He also hopes that his players have learned something from the adversity that came with their comeback win.
“I hope (they learned) that things don’t always go your way. You don’t expect to win in four games no matter how good you might be or think you are,” he said. “Losing one game or being down a game you can’t panic, you’ve got to play.”
Though Wagner learned a perhaps cheekier lesson.
“Don’t get down three to one again,” he laughed, before adding, “we got to play hard, we learned that. You can never take it easy on a team because they’ll shove it up your butt real quick.”
The Pats third round series – the Eastern Conference Final – starts on Friday night at the Brandt Centre. Tickets for games one and two go on sale Tuesday at noon.