It took both teams a full seven games to get here, but now they’re squaring off for eastern conference supremacy.
The Regina Pats put together an impressive comeback from the brink of elimination to make it to this point.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes, up 3-2 in their series saw the Medicine Hat Tigers fight back to force a game seven.
Now on Friday night, both teams will start all over.
“I think the best team won,” Pats head coach John Paddock said of the Lethbridge’s game seven victory. “They’re missing half a dozen players and they found a way to win. They’re seven and three their last ten playoff games, so I would say that indicates it’s a pretty difficult match.”
But that doesn’t mean the Pats don’t have plenty of players left to worry about. Tyler Wong, 21, was one of the best players in the WHL this season with 51 goals and 58 assists. He also scored the game winner in game seven in overtime to get the Canes to the next round.
He’s currently tied for first place for points in the playoffs and sits second in scoring.
“He’s a hardworking inspirational guy that has skill, ability to score, he’s physical. He jumps a couple feet in the air when he hits guys, doesn’t get called,” Paddock said about Wong.
If the WHL had a most valuable player, Wong might be it, he added.
“I think (Giorgio Estephan) and Wong going into (Tuesday) night’s game were on the ice for 13 of the 21 goals Lethbridge scored in the series, so I’d say they should be paid attention to.”
That’s not to say that the Pats don’t have their own players to watch.
The Pats second line, comprised of Austin Wagner, Wyatt Sloboshan and Filip Ahl have been lighting up the scoreboard over the past several games. That line is nearly singularly responsible for the Pats game six win, and scored seven of the Pats last ten goals.
Ahl said the chemistry the three of them have found has been vital to the team’s success.
“It’s really important, I think, that you get the confidence in the playoffs. You have two lines that really can create lots of scoring opportunities out there and also score so, of course, it’s really good out there,” he said.
That was a product, according to Paddock, of going seven games in the last series.
“You always want to win sooner but there’s no reason to expect that,” he said. “But what I think the benefit of it is, if there is such a thing, is players have stepped up, improved, found roles or niches that we didn’t know … Wyatt (Sloboshan is) finally getting rewarded for some of his play with some offence. Filip coming back has been a monster these last two games.”
“Now they’ve got a new standard, or level, or they’ve shown what that can do, so I think we’re stronger for it.”
The puck drops on game one of the series at 7 p.m. Friday night in Regina.
- Lethbridge and Regina tied their regular season series each winning two games.
- The Pats finished in first place in the WHL, the Hurricanes were third.
- The Pats dashed the Hurricanes playoff hopes last year, knocking them out of the playoffs in five games.
- Lethbridge’s Wong is second in the league and first on his team in playoff goals with 11.
- Regina’s top scorer, who is also third in the league, is Austin Wagner with 10 goals.