Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Bulldogs slip past Titan 3-2 at Memorial Cup

Both squads ensured a top two finish in round robin standings

Robert Thomas had the winning goal for the Bulldogs on Tuesday.
    The Hamilton Bulldogs made sure they won’t be involved in a standings tiebreaker game and will now wait to see where they will sit for the playoff round of the Memorial Cup.
    On Tuesday at the Brandt Centre in Regina, the Bulldogs downed the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan 3-2 in the final round robin game for both clubs. Both teams have identical 2-1 records and will finish in the top two positions of the round robin standings.
    At the moment, the Bulldogs sit in first place thanks to their head-to-head win with the Titan. Hamilton will make Sunday’s championship final, if the host Regina Pats (1-1) fall to the WHL champion Swift Current Broncos (0-2) in Wednesday’s final round robin game. The Pats and Broncos go at it at 8 p.m. at the Brandt Centre.
    If the Pats beat the Broncos on Wednesday, the Broncos will be eliminated from the CHL championship tournament. The Pats would improve to 2-1 and invoke the three-way tiebreaking rules between them, the Bulldogs and the Titan.
    Under a mathematical formula involving the goals for and goals against between the three clubs in their head-to-head games, the Titan would vault to first place, the Bulldogs would finish second and face the Pats in Friday’s semifinal contest set for 8 p.m. at the Brandt Centre.
Netminder Kaden Fulcher made 33 saves for the Bulldogs on Tuesday.
    If the Broncos beat the Pats on Wednesday, those two clubs will go at it again on Thursday at 6 p.m. in a standings tiebreaker game at the Brandt Centre.
    As for Tuesday’s game, the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick start on the scoreboard in the first period. At the 14:33 mark of the first, Bulldogs defenceman Benjamin Gleason fired home a point shot through a screen for a power-play goal to give Hamilton a 1-0 lead.
    The OHL champions expanded their edge to 2-0 at the 17:27 mark of the first, when right-winger MacKenzie Entwistle fed a pass across the front of the Titan net to linemate Nicholas Caamano, who buried his first of the tournament.
    The Titan cut the Bulldogs lead to 2-1 at the 14:11 mark of the second period, when captain Jeffery Truchon-Viel converted a backdoor pass from offensive defenceman Noah Dobson.
    Just 64 seconds into the third, the Bulldogs struck again on the power play to go ahead 3-1, when star centre Robert Thomas ripped home a shot from the right slot to the top right corner of the Acadie-Bathurst goal.
    The Titan didn’t go away. They cut the gap to 3-2 at the 3:44 mark of the third, when centre Samuel Asselin redirected a backdoor feed from Truchon-Viel into the Hamilton goal.
    Acadie-Bathurst couldn’t find the equalizer allowing the Bulldogs to pull out their second straight win.
Benjamin Gleason had the Bulldogs first goal on Tuesday.
    In one the stranger things you will see in a game, the Titan went on the power play with 1:34 to play in the third but elected to not pull netminder Evan Fitzpatrick for a six-on-four advantage in the number of skaters on the ice to push for the equalizer.
    With one goal separating the two clubs, the Acadie-Bathurst coaches elected not to pull Fitzpatrick to avoid giving up an empty-net goal to upset the mathematical formula involving a standings tiebreaker between themselves, the Bulldogs and the Pats.
    Had the Bulldogs defeated the Titan by two goals on Tuesday, Hamilton would have locked up a berth in Sunday’s championship game. Hamilton fell 3-2 to the Pats in the tournament’s opening game last Friday. The Titan downed the Pats 8-6 in their round robin meeting on Sunday.
    Kaden Fulcher made 33 saves to pick up the win for the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Fitzpatrick turned away 31 shots to take the setback in goal for the Titan on Tuesday.
    An announced crowd of 6,072 attended Tuesday’s game, but with a lot of empty seats visible at the rink, it appears there were a number of no shows.
    It is expected Wednesday clash between the host Pats and the Broncos could be the first game of this year’s tournament that could be a complete sellout.

Broncos fans bring extra atmosphere, other notes

Swift Current Broncos fans have invaded Regina for the Memorial Cup.
    When the Swift Current Broncos hit the ice at the Memorial Cup, you sometimes wonder if anyone was left in the city “where life makes sense.”
    On Monday when the WHL champion Broncos faced the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs, there was a huge invasion of fans sporting Broncos jerseys or apparel on to the Evraz Place grounds in Regina. For anyone that has attended Broncos games at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current, they would recognize many of the Broncos supporters as regulars at games in Swift Current.
    When the Broncos faced the Bulldogs, the Broncos fans stormed into the Fanfest area. A handful spilled into the Brandt Celebration Zone pre-game.
    With Broncos making their first appearance in 25 years at the CHL’s championship tournament, the expressions on the faces of the Swift Current fans shows they are just happy their team has made it this far. Almost all of them are intent on just enjoying the fact the Broncos are playing in the Memorial Cup and that this year’s prestigious major junior tournament is located in a centre that is just a two-and-a-half hour drive east of Swift Current on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Swift Current Broncos fans gather outside the Brandt Centre.
    Back in 1993, the Memorial Cup was held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., so it wasn’t as easy for Broncos fans to follow their team on the road. When the Broncos won the Memorial Cup in 1989 in Saskatoon, a healthy contingent from Swift Current made it out to the tourney in that year.
    Before Monday’s game, Broncos supporters could be heard in Fanfest getting warmed up before the game with chants of “let’s go Broncos” minutes before the doors of the Brandt Centre opened. When the doors swung open, many Swift Current supporters took up position in the standing room on the concourse ring to see their team warm up. A couple displayed signs.
    Upon hitting the ice during pre-game introductions, the Broncos were greeted with a deafening cheers.
    The cheers were muted for much of Monday’s clash, as the Bulldogs spend huge amounts of time in the Broncos end. Hamilton outshot Swift Current 22-4 after the first period and held a 1-0 lead.
Broncos fans did have spurts, when they hammered on their cowbells and attempted to get the “let’s go Broncos chant” going. They brought huge cheers at the 9:26 mark of the second, when offensive defenceman Colby Sissons scored on the power play to tie thing up at 1-1.
    From that point, the Bulldogs proceeded to tilt the ice keeping the puck in Swift Current’s end for long stretches, which kept the Swift Current supporters quiet. Eventually, Bulldogs left-winger Marian Studenic netting the winner with 2:01 remaining in the third period. 
Swift Current Broncos fans cheer on their team at the Memorial Cup.
    When the third period expired with the Bulldogs pulling out a 2-1 victory while holding a 56-22 edge in shots on goal, the Broncos fans saluted their side, when they left the ice. A huge ovation was given to Broncos netminder Stuart Skinner, when he reappeared on the ice to accept his award as the game’s first star. He had a spectacular performance making 54 saves, and he made sure to give an appreciative wave to the crowd before departing to the dressing room.
    The presence of the Broncos fans has added to the atmosphere of the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately, it might only last for one more game.
    The Broncos hit the ice against the host Regina Pats on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Brandt Centre. At 0-2, the Broncos need to win against the 1-1 Pats to stay alive in the tournament.
    If the Broncos can win to stay alive, they will ensure their supporters will return to the rink with them for another game.
  • The best of the Regina Pats fans definitely showed up for their round robin game on Sunday. Judging by the stands, there were very few no shows of the 5,832 spectators who bought tickets to that contest. Even after the Pats fell behind 7-2 early in the third period to the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan, not that many in attendance left the rink. They got to see an inspired Pats comeback attempt. As the host side closed to 7-6, the cheers in the building were deafening. The rally was not to be as the Titan scored an empty-net goal to season an 8-6 victory.
  • On Tuesday, the CHL announced alums and current player used a total of over $9.6-million from the CHL Scholarship Program in the 2017-18 campaign. That included 910 graduates who utilized their scholarships at post-secondary institutions across North America totaling over $8-million. In addition, a total of over $1.6-million was spent for current CHL players attending high school and post-secondary institutions.
  • It is hard to judge the buzz for the Memorial Cup in Regina. When you are on the Evraz Place grounds, the buzz is there no matter who is in action. When you leave the Evraz Place grounds, it feels like the buzz is lacking. After covering Sunday’s game where the host Pats fell 8-6 to the Titan, I checked out the nightclub district on Dewdney Avenue. Only Gabbo’s was open, and it was steady. The workers and patrons inside had to be pretty much reminded the Pats were playing hockey again. The Pats were eliminated in tough seven game first round series in the WHL playoffs to the Swift Current Broncos and had 45 off days before playing in the Memorial Cup. The night action in Regina was a big contrast to the 2017 WHL playoffs, when the Pats made a long run falling in Game 6 of the WHL Championship series. Before 2017, the Pats last appeared in the WHL final in 1984. After Pats home games in the 2017 WHL playoffs, the night action with excited Pats supporters spilling into the Dewdney Avenue district was similar to what was seen when the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders make a run to the Grey Cup.

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