Jeff de Wit said it, he couldn’t have written a better ending for his captain.
Adam Brooks, in just his second game back after a knee injury sidelined him in the eastern conference semi-finals, was the hero at the Brandt Centre Saturday night.
An incredible feed from Pats defenceman Sergey Zborovskiy at the blue line found Brooks at an open side of the net, and the captain made no mistake, shooting the puck under a diving Stuart Skinner to clinch a 3-2 win in overtime.
Blue and red lights flashed and smoke shot up from behind the net, the horn buzzed and the crowd jumped to its feet while hitting a deafening volume.
In the immediate aftermath, Brooks said, it all becomes a bit of a blur.
“You kind of black out and try to brace yourself for all the guys coming,” he said. “It’s definitely an exciting moment and when all the guys are coming at you there’s probably no better feeling.”
And for a while it was uncertain he’d ever get that feeling in a Pats uniform again. Brooks dressed for the final three games of the series with Swift Current but didn’t see any ice time. Instead, he was showing leadership on the bench giving advice to his teammates and helping them stay positive, even when coming back from a 3-1 series deficit seemed like an impossible feat.
“The boys did a great job coming back and winning that series and making sure that I would be able to play again so I can’t thank that enough,” Brooks said.
“It means a lot to come back and be able to help the team on the ice now rather than just to stand on the bench and just cheer them on.”
— #WHLPlayoffs (@TheWHL) April 23, 2017
Pats maintained pressure all game
It looked like a completely different Pats team right from the start.
First of all, Brooks started the game in his old spot, centering Filip Ahl and Austin Wagner and took the opening faceoff.
But it didn’t stop there, the pressure, which the Pats exerted for only the first few minutes of game one was there for nearly the entire game Saturday night.
The first was marked with 14 shots on net for the Pats including strong chances from Brooks, Steel and Sloboshan within the first several minutes.
Finally, at about the halfway mark of the period, the Pats are able to penetrate Lethbridge goaltender Stuart Skinner.
A shot from the point by Liam Schioler is tipped in front of the net by Jeff de Wit to put the Pats up 1-0
That goal would be the only one scored for roughly 35 minutes of play even though the Pats continued with immense pressure in the second period, including chances on three powerplays. The 1-0 lead would hold into the second intermission.
In the third, it seemed like the Pats had it locked up when Austin Wagner broke out for a shorthanded Pats goal to put Regina up 2-0. The crowd in the Brandt Centre erupted with cheers, but it didn’t get the Hurricanes down.
Two minutes later Zane Franklin drove one past Pats goaltender Tyler Brown at 9:21, and then just 33 seconds later it’s tied up by Jordy Bellerive, who silenced the Regina faithful.
“We made mistakes on those two goals, the kind of mistakes you really can’t make at any time of the game,” said head coach John Paddock.
The Pats were unable to tie things up, sending the game into overtime. During intermission, Paddock said he was happy with how confident his players were, despite a less than stellar history in extra frames.
“They regrouped in overtime, restarted doing the things we were doing earlier in the game as far as playing attack hockey and finally we got rewarded for it,” Paddock said.
The head coach called Brooks’ goal his best one to date, adding it came at just the right time.
“It’s a big goal anytime you got an overtime game in the playoffs and you know (it’s Adam’s) second time on the ice in 15 days, (it’s) pretty impressive.”
The Pats will now head into Lethbridge for games three and four with the series tied at one game apiece.
The win tonight also guaranteed a game five back in Regina on Friday.
Tickets for that will go on sale Monday at noon.