It was the comeback fans and teammates alike were waiting for.
Adam Brooks returned to the ice on Friday night, and not just to open and close the door to the Pats’ bench or for moral support.
The crowd erupted, seemingly at random if you weren’t paying attention, as the captain stepped onto the ice for the first time since a knee-on-knee hit knocked him out of Game 2 in the Broncos series.
He was not with his usual line and not in for his usual minutes, but still, the progress has to be encouraging for all those hoping he would be back sooner rather than later.
Brooks himself was not available for an interview after the game, but his head coach seemed happy with his play given the circumstances.
“We obviously decided when we said he was going to play to monitor it,” said John Paddock. “Until the last 10 minutes of the third period, he did fine. He’s not at the level he normally would be but that’s alright.”
The Pats themselves also didn’t play to the level they normally did.
Austin Wagner put the Pats on the scoreboard just 70 seconds into the period, but after that, the team just seemed to taper out.
“We got away from what we wanted to do,” said a frustrated Wagner after the game. “You could tell. We stopped getting pucks in, we turned over pucks at the blue line and it cost us big time. And then the second period rolls around and we’re not good enough. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
“We stopped playing,” added Paddock. “And (Lethbridge) deserves lots of credit, they’re a good team, but the battle wasn’t there to the level they were playing at.”
The Pats closed out the first period up 1-0, but the lead wouldn’t hold.
About eight minutes into the second period Giorgio Estephan found his way past Tyler Brown after a beautiful pass from the corner from Igor Babenko.
After that, the Hurricanes shut down the Pats shots with some impressive blocked shots and their goaltender, Stuart Skinner, found that place goaltenders go when they slam the door on their opponents.
“In our last series a couple (goals) have come quick and we’ve always come back and we won, there’s confidence in that,” said Skinner about saving the Pats’ 36 others shots. “I think just staying calm, not getting too worried not getting too down and not getting too high, I think just staying even-keeled.”
“I got to give a lot of credit to my teammates out in front of me,” he added. “I can always count on my guys blocking shots for me.”
And while the Pats wouldn’t get past Skinner again Friday night, the Hurricanes would score two more. One on the powerplay after Filip Ahl was tagged for hooking, then, Estephan scored an empty netter in the dying minutes of the game.
Now, the Pats will have to shake off game one and regroup for game two on Saturday, less than 24 hours after their loss.
“We need to do a better job, especially the d-men at the point here, just getting pucks through and getting them to the net and letting our forwards do some work around the net,” said defenceman Josh Mahura.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. at the Brandt Centre, before the series moves to Lethbridge on Tuesday.