Friday, 25 May 2018

Steel cashes in on goalie gaff, Pats off to Memorial Cup final

Captain Sam Steel scored the winning goal for the Pats on Friday.
    If you give Sam Steel a golden opportunity, he is going to take it.
    On Friday night in the semifinal contest of the Memorial Cup tournament at the Brandt Centre, the host Regina Pats were holding a slim 2-1 lead in the third period over the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs. On a Regina dump in, Bulldogs netminder Kaden Fulcher came way out of his crease and nonchalantly passed the puck into an open area of the ice.
    The puck went on the stick of Steel, who is the Pats star captain. Fulcher fell down to the ice after being stick checked by Pats left-winger Nick Henry. Steel easily skated around the fallen goalie and placed the puck into an empty cage to give the Pats a 3-1 edge with 5:55 to play in the frame.
    That tally turned out to be very key. Just 73 second later, Bulldogs right-winger Will Bitten broke down the right wing of the Regina zone on a breakaway and lifted home a shot to the top right corner on Pats netminder Max Paddock to cut the Regina lead to 3-2. Bitten was sent in on his breakaway on a beauty spring pass from Bulldogs defenceman Benjamin Gleason.
    Hamilton couldn’t net the equalizer.
    Steel’s gift goal turned out to be the winner. He later came up with a key shot block in the final minute. Seconds after that shot block, Steel gave a set up to centre Jake Leschyshyn for an easy empty-net goal with 5.2 seconds remaining in the third to deliver the Pats to a 4-2 victory to send the announced sellout crowd of 6,484 spectators into a frenzy.
Pats centre Jake Leschyshyn scored into an empty net on Friday.
    With the win, the Pats improved to 3-1 in the CHL championship tournament and advanced to Sunday’s championship final to face the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan (2-1) at 5 p.m. at the Brandt Centre.
    Besides Steel’s big plays, the difference in Friday’s contest was the play of the goaltenders on both sides.
    Fulcher had by far the best statics in the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup. He was good but not outstanding in the Hamilton goal on Friday turning away 20 of 23 shots sent his way, which included the lapse on Steel’s winning goal. The Bulldogs finished the tournament with a 2-2 record.
    Max Paddock, who is the Pats rookie 17-year-old netminder, had a couple of shaky games during the round robin portion of the tournament, but looked like a rookie phenom making 44 saves against the Bulldogs.
    His biggest stops came after the Pats lead shrank to 3-2. Bulldogs left-winger Marian Studenic drove down the right wing and had an initial shot stopped and a rebound shot turned away by Paddock.
Goalie Max Paddock made 44 saves for the Pats on Friday.
    After the Bulldogs pulled Fulcher for an extra attacker, Paddock stoned Bulldogs right-winger MacKenzie Entwistle on a wraparound and Bitten on the rebound chance.
    That set the stage for Steel’s shot block inside of the final minute and his set up to Leschyshyn for the empty-net tally.
    Inside the first minute of the first period, the Bulldogs tried to set a physical tone as defenceman Riley Stillman nailed Pats right-winger Cameron Hebig with a big open ice hit.
    The Pats struck first scoring 5:22 into the first period, when right-winger Austin Pratt knocked home the rebound from an Emil Oksanen shot to go ahead 1-0.
    The Bulldogs evened thing up at 1-1 at the 7:35 mark of the second, when defenceman Nicolas Mattinen one-timed home a shot from the point off a set up pass from Gleason. Mattinen had been a bit snakebitten in the Memorial Cup firing a number of shots off goalposts, which included hitting the crossbar of the Regina net late in the first period of Friday’s game. 
Cameron Hebig had a goal for the Pats on Friday.
    Regina jumped back out in front 2-1 at the 11-minute mark of the second, when Hebig fired home a shot from the front of the Hamilton net after taking a good set up pass from offensive defenceman Josh Mahura.
    A short time after Hebig’s tally, Bulldogs captain Justin Lemcke took down Pats left-winger Bryce Platt in one of the rare fights that have occurred in about the last two decades of the Memorial Cup tournament.
    Lemcke’s attempt to spark his club had mixed results, as the Bulldogs fired a lot of shots at the Pats net but there wasn’t an explosion of offence for the Hamilton side.
    The Pats as team blocked a lot of Bulldogs shot attempts, and Regina brought a bit of a physical game too. Regina defenceman Cale Fleury had a big hot on Stillman in the third period.
    A week ago on May 18, the Pats and Bulldogs opened the Memorial Cup tournament with a round robin game that was claimed by the Pats 3-2, when Henry scored the winning goal in that contest with 32.6 seconds to play in the third period.
    The Bulldogs finished third overall in the OHL’s regular season standings with a 43-18-4-3 record and advanced through the playoffs with a 16-5 mark. The Bulldogs took out the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in six games in the OHL’s Championship series.
Josh Mahura had an assist for the Pats on Friday.
    In the third period of Friday’s game, the Bulldogs lost a number of hustle plays and physical battles to the Pats.
    The Pats entered the Memorial Cup off a stretch of having 45 days off after being eliminated in Game 7 of a tough first round WHL playoff series on April 2 to the Swift Current Broncos, who won the WHL title. The Broncos were eliminated in the Memorial Cup after going 0-3 in the round robin with all three setback coming by a one-goal margin.
    The Pats finished seventh overall in the WHL’s regular season with a 40-25-6-1 record and will attempt to win their fourth Memorial Cup title in team history, with the last championship coming back in 1974 when the tournament was held in Calgary.
    The Titan finished second overall in the QMJHL’s regular season standings with a 43-15-8-2 record and went 16-4 in the playoffs. Acadie-Bathurst claimed the round robin clash with Regina at the Memorial Cup 8-6 on May 20.
    As five out of the seven games played at the Memorial Cup were decided by one goal and two were decided by two-goals, this Memorial Cup has been one of the tightest contested ever, and which should bode well for expectations of excitement in Sunday’s championship final.

Viveiros departs Broncos for NHL’s Oilers

Head coach Manny Viveiros mans the Swift Current Broncos bench.
    After two memorable seasons with the Swift Current Broncos, Manny Viveiros is moving on to the NHL.
    On Thursday at a news conference in Swift Current, Viveiros stepped down as the head coach and director of player personnel for the Broncos to become an assistant coach with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
    The 52-year-old from St. Alberta, Alta., led the Broncos to a 10th overall finish in the WHL’s regular season standings in 2016-17 with a 39-23-4-6 record. The Broncos advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs falling in a tough seven-game series to the Regina Pats, who would advance to the WHL Championship series.
    This past season, Viveiros guided the Broncos to the second best record in the WHL’s regular season at 48-17-5-2. The Broncos set a record playing 26 games in the WHL playoffs winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup and capturing the league title for the first since 1993. Swift Current advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament to play for the CHL title.
    At the Memorial Cup tournament in Regina, Sask., the Broncos went 0-3 in round robin play falling by a one-goal margin each time out.
Manny Viveiros lifts the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
    Before joining the Broncos, Viveiros coached Austria’s national team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. After the Olympics, Viveiros coached ERC Ingolstadt of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (Del) as an assistant coach in 2014 and head coach in 2015.
    In WHL circles, Viveiros is remembered for playing four season for the Prince Albert Raiders from 1982 to 1986 appearing in 251 regular season games collecting 60 goals and 261 assists. He helped the Raiders win the Memorial Cup in 1985.
    Viveiros was selected in the sixth round and 106th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Oilers. He appeared in 29 NHL regular seasons over three seasons from 1985 to 1988 with the Minnesota North Stars collecting one goal and 11 assists. He spent 16 seasons playing professionally in Austria from 1991 to 2007.
    The Broncos also announced director of business operations Dianne Sletten is moving to other pursuits leaving the team after six seasons.

Does the “Curse of the Drop” still live?

    Friday marked the 10th anniversary of one of the infamous and biggest blooper moments in the history of the Memorial Cup.
    On May 25, 2008, the WHL champion Spokane Chiefs downed the host Kitchener Rangers 4-1 in the Memorial Cup tournament’s championship game. It marked the second time the Chiefs captured the Memorial Cup to become CHL champions.
    After winning the title in 2008, Chiefs captain Chris Bruton accepted the Memorial Cup. Bruton turned and was going to give the Memorial Cup to defenceman Trevor Glass. Glass, who was in his 19-year-old season at the time, was with the Medicine Hat Tigers the previous campaign when they won the WHL title and fell 3-1 in the Memorial Cup championship game to the host Vancouver Giants.
    As Bruton reached out to hand the Memorial Cup to Glass, the trophy separated at the neck and fell to the ice to the shock of the spectators in Kitchener, Ont.
    Following that moment the WHL went on its longest drought ever of not winning major junior hockey’s biggest prize spanning five seasons from 2009 to 2013. Clubs from the WHL first became eligible to play for the Memorial Cup in the 1970-1971 campaign.
    The drought was broken by the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014. Edmonton was playing to honour the memory of former player Kristians Pelss, who was with Edmonton’s 2012 WHL championship team and passed away in 2013 due to a recreation diving accident.
    After the Oil Kings win, the WHL entry was unable to win the next three Memorial Cup tournaments. The WHL has won one of the last nine Memorial Cup tournament, so the host Regina Pats will try and make that record two for the last 10, when they face the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan in Sunday’s championship game (5 p.m., Brandt Centre).
    The video of the Chiefs mishap with the Memorial Cup can be found below.

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