The Memorial Cup drought continues for the Regina Pats, who suffered a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Sunday night.
“It’s hard, not the way we wanted to finish of the season,” Matt Bradley said following the defeat.
In front of a sold-out crowd at the Brandt Centre, the Pats — who were chasing their first Memorial Cup in 44 years — wanted to feed off the energy but the stifling defence of the Titan stamped out any sort of momentum the Pats would try to get.
While both teams battled hard in the first period, the Titan slipped a puck past Pats net-minder Max Paddock on an Adam Holwell shot with under four minutes to go in the opening frame.
The Pats would be absolutely overwhelmed by the Titan in the second period, being outshot 24-6.
But 17-year-old Paddock shut the door to keep it a one-goal game heading into the final frame.
“All game he gave us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask from your goalie, he was absolutely unbelievable tonight,” Josh Mahura said. “I feel like we kind of let him down tonight in a way.”
While the Pats desperately searched for the tying goal in the third — with 17 shots in the third compared to just eight for the Titan — the goal just wouldn’t come.
A goal by Samuel Asselin and then an empty-netter by Ethan Crossman sealed the victory for the Titan — their first Memorial Cup in the team’s history — and sent the Pats home empty-handed.
“It sucks coming up short,” Paddock said following a performance that saw him stop 41 of the 43 shots he faced. “Maybe in a year or two, I’ll be able to look back on this and say it was some of the best times of my life with these guys.”
While Paddock could get another shot at a Memorial Cup, the junior hockey journey comes to an end for a few members of the Regina squad.
“Every single guy in there I respect and I’ll be really close with for the rest of my life, it’s a bunch of great friendships in there,” Bradley said, who was one of the Pats overage players this season.
While Sam Steel has junior eligibility left, after winning tournament MVP with 13 points in five games, it’s expected he will find his way onto the Anaheim Ducks roster next season.
“It’s been unbelievable, since the day I was drafted it’s been great to be a part of the city and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Steel said. “They’ve given me everything throughout my junior career and I’m just proud to be a Pat.”
Another Pat who could find himself onto an NHL roster is Josh Mahura, who is also a Ducks prospect.
“Coming here last year was some of the most fun I’ve had playing hockey in my life and just the whole organization welcomed me so well from the coaching staff to the owners, it’s just amazing people around this whole organization, this whole city,” Mahura said.
“I’ve grown to love Saskatchewan, first time I’ve been here, my whole time if it’s my last it’s been just an absolutely amazing experience for me.”
After the game, head coach John Paddock simply told them they have nothing to hang their heads about when it came to their performance in the tournament.
“We got beat by a better team … Us not winning doesn’t define our group,” John said.
But some players were shaken up knowing they came close to their ultimate goal of a Memorial Cup.
“We had just about half the team brought in January and they’ve done a fantastic job of working after we lost and becoming a team,” John said. “For guys that were here only four months like Aaron Hyman, he was really shook up because they invested a lot in each other and when you invest a lot, it hurts a lot.”
Fans left disappointed but proud
As the final whistle went, the buzzer sounded and the tournament came to an end with Acadie-Bathurst players lifting the championship trophy over their heads, Pats fans were left with an outcome that was the opposite for the one they had hoped for, but they were still left with a sense of satisfaction and pride.
Acadie-Bathurst Titan defeat the Regina Pats 3-0 to win the 2018 Memorial Cup as fans now file out of the Brandt Centre. Simply put, some fans tell me the better team won. As straight forward as that pic.twitter.com/l555Hk0NFT
— Kevin Martel (@KevinMartel) May 28, 2018
“You got nothing to shake your head about. They worked hard,” Dallas Jahnke said outside the Brandt Centre in his Pats jersey. “We proved that we could play with the best in the OHL, CHL, you name it, you just come up one game short.”
Standing beside him, Aaron Jahnke agreed.
“They did their best, there’s just somebody that was better. That’s all it comes down to.”
Other fans admitted the right team won and congratulated the Titan, saying the Pats were simply outplayed and outcoached.
But that didn’t totally spoil their fun.
“All in all it was pretty good, good Memorial Cup, lots of fun to be at,” said another fan.
— With files from Arielle Zerr, Britton Gray and Kevin Martel.