Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Pats’ Leedahl hits milestone

Saskatoon product scores 30th goal in win over Blades

Dawson Leedahl, right, was all smiles after hitting the 30-goal plateau.
    Dawson Leedahl had a unique personal milestone night in what could possibly be his last WHL game in his hometown.
    On Wednesday night, the overage winger for the Regina Pats netted his 30th goal of the season against the host Saskatoon Blades. 
    Working on a power play just past the midway point of the second period, Leedahl, who is from Saskatoon, tapped in a puck at the side of the Blades net to put the Pats up 3-0 off a beauty setup from star centre Sam Steel.
    The Pats, who are rated second in the Canadian Hockey League’s top 10 rankings, built a 4-0 lead and cruised to a 4-1 victory to mostly disappoint the 3,782 onlookers at the SaskTel Centre. A large number of Pats supporters were present at Wednesday’s game. Regina’s domination included posting a 47-16 edge in shots on goal.
Dawson Leedahl, left, battles for the puck behind the Saskatoon net.
    “It is exciting,” said Leedahl, about his 30th goal. “It is a good milestone for sure.
    “I am more happy about the way we played today. We played a full 60 minutes and everyone had a good effort. It made it pretty easy to get my 30th.”
    Leedahl followed a little bit of direction from Steel that resulted in the Saskatoon product’s memorable tally.
    “Before the draw, Sammie (Steel) told me to go backdoor,” said Leedahl, who had an assist on the Pats first goal. “They made a nice play.
“He (Steel) fired the puck backdoor, and I was ready for it. I just tapped it in.”
    Leedahl, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 193 pounds, was acquired by the Pats in a blockbuster trade last July with the Everett Silvertips. In that transaction, the Pats acquired Leedahl and the WHL playing rights to 18-year-old forward Tyson Jost in exchange for 18-year-old winger Sean Richards, a fourth round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft that was acquired from the Red Deer Rebels in another deal, and conditional draft picks that depend on Jost joining the Pats one day.
Pats captain Adam Brooks sniped a goal on Wednesday.
    Jost was a first round selection of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and was a member of Canada’s team that won silver at the world junior championship that wrapped up in early January in Montreal.
    Before joining the Pats, Leedahl played four complete seasons with the Silvertips, and his best campaign came in the 2014-15 campaign, when he netted 14 goals and 19 assists in 52 regular season games. Way back in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, the Silvertips selected Leedahl in the second round and 40th overall.
    As an overager with the Pats, Leedahl has had a breakout season picking up career highs in goals (30), assists (44) and points (74) in 58 regular season games. Unless the Pats and Blades meet in the post-season, Wednesday’s encounter will be the last WHL game Leedahl plays in his hometown.
    “It is pretty crazy,” said Leedahl, who had 10 to 20 family members in attendance on Wednesday. “I was thinking about the first time I came in here when I was 16 with Everett and how excited I was to play in front of the big crowd and my parents and family.
    “It is pretty crazy that it has been five years, and it is gone now. Anytime you have family (in the stands) you want to impress them or just do your best for them. I think we did that.”
Netminder Brock Hamm turned away 43 shots in goal for the Blades.
    Nick Henry, captain Adam Brooks and Braydon Buziak all netted singles for the Pats. Tyler Brown turned away 15 shots to pick up the win in the Regina net.
    Michael Farren had the lone reply for the Blades scoring on a two-man advantage with 6:34 to play in the third period. Brock Hamm was sensational in the Saskatoon goal making 43 saves to keep his team in the game.
    The Pats went 3-for-7 with the man advantage, while the Blades were 1-for-4 on the power play. Regina had Saskatoon pinned in its own zone for much of the contest, and Leedahl said the Pats talked about having a relentless effort.
    “We hadn’t really played a good team game in a little while,” said Leedahl. “We wanted to stick to it.
    “I guess we just played hard and played the right way and things went the right way.”
    With the win, the Pats improved their WHL leading record to 43-9-6-1. Leedahl admitted that his final major junior season has been something out of a dream so far.
Winger Nick Henry, left, looks to drive a shot on goal for the Pats.
    “It has been a lot of fun,” said Leedahl. “There are lots of fun guys and a fun coaching staff.
    “Everyone is just really good at what they do, and it has made it a lot of fun and pretty easy to play here.”
    With the loss, the Blades fall to 23-29-6-2 to sit two points back of the Calgary Hitmen (23-26-8-2) for eighth place and the final playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
    The Blades return to action Friday, when they host their arch rivals the Prince Albert Raiders (16-39-4-2) at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. The Pats return home to host the Swift Current Broncos (30-18-4-6) on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Brandt Centre.

Pats are fitting hosts for 100th Memorial Cup

Some mementoes from when Regina hosted the 2001 Memorial Cup.
    There is a lot of excitement surround the Regina Pats these days, and that excitement hit another level last Saturday, when the Pats were named the host of the 100th Memorial Cup next year.
    Normally, the hosting rights for the Memorial Cup cycles between the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but the CHL elected to open the hosting rights for the 100th tournament to all teams in its member leagues. The Pats are the oldest major junior franchise in the world beginning operation in 1917, so it seemed like a natural fit that they host the centennial edition of the Memorial Cup.
    The Pats are also named for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and will be celebrating their 100th anniversary next season. The 100th Memorial Cup will take place May 17-27, 2018 at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
    The Pats last hosted the Memorial Cup in 2001, and it was a huge success on and off the ice. The WHL champion Red Deer Rebels claimed that tournament winning the championship final 6-5 in overtime against the QMJHL champion Val-d’Or Foreurs. The Ottawa 67s also took part in that Memorial Cup as champions of the OHL.
    In Regina, the Pats, who won the Memorial Cup in 1925, 1930 and 1974, have a huge loyal following due to their history in the Saskatchewan capital. When Regina hosted the Memorial Cup in 2001, there was strong excitement in the year leading up to the event despite the fact the Pats had a bit of an up and down campaign before finishing the 2000-01 regular season with a record of 40 wins, 27 losses, three ties and two overtime losses.
    People in Regina are already highly pumped up for the Pats. The Pats also have a good chance of returning a number of key players from their club this season to next season.
    Expect the 100th Memorial Cup in Regina to be a smashing success.

Back in the Express with Slobodzian

Captain Willow Slobodzian is one of the Stars top stars.
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this week with a feature on Saskatoon Stars captain Willow Slobodzian.
    Slobodzian is playing in her final season with the Stars, and helped them post a team record for points in the regular season standings at 76 coming from 25 regulation wins, two regulation losses and one extra time loss. The Stars topped the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s regular season standings for a third straight year.
    In the fall, Slobodzian will join the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Hawks women’s team, who play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
    During her final campaign with the Stars, Slobodzian, who is an offensive defender, equaled her career high in goals (six) and set career highs in assists (21) and points (27) appearing in all of her team’s 28 regular season games.
    On Wednesday, the Stars opened a best-of-five first round SFMAAAHL playoff series by downing the Weyburn Southern Range Gold Wings 9-0 at the Agriplace Arena. Slobodzian had an assist in that contest.
    In the win over the Gold Wings, Grace Shirley had a hat trick and Anna Leschyshyn had a pair of goals for the Stars. Jordyn Holmes, Mackenna Parker, Abby Shirley and Kaitlin Jockims each had singles for Saskatoon. Abby Shirley also collected three assists.
    Jordan Ivanco made 14 saves to earn the shutout win in goal for the Stars. Meagan Perkins turned away 34 shots taking the loss in goal for the Gold Wings.
    Game 2 of the series is set for Friday in Weyburn, and Game 3 is slated for 7 p.m. in Saskatoon at the Agriplace Arena.
    The Express feature story on Slobodzian can be found here.

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