Monday, 19 March 2018

Blades’ Brown departs WHL with big street cred from Pats run

Tyler Brown makes a stop for the Blades on Saturday.
    The words “save on Gawdin” immediately perked up Tyler Brown.
    The 20-year-old Winnipeg, Man., product had just made 31 saves playing goal for the Saskatoon Blades in their 5-4 regular reason ending victory over the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday night at the SaskTel Centre before 9,624 spectators. The win would be Brown’s last game in his WHL career that spanned four seasons, where he played the first three-and-a-half of those campaigns with the Regina Pats.
    Brown was dealt to the Blades in a trade just before the WHL trade deadline passed on Jan. 10.
    During a post-game media scrum, Brown was asked what the highlight was of his WHL career. He talked about his first career regular season start with the Pats way back on Oct. 18, 2014, where he made 29 stops in a 6-1 victory over the Hurricanes in Lethbridge.
Tyler Brown focuses playing goal for the Pats in last year’s WHL playoffs.
    When “save on Gawdin” was mentioned after his answer, Brown smiled and his demeanour became really upbeat.
    “That was pretty good,” said Brown. “I thought that might have been a turning point for us in that series.”
    Brown was triggered back into thinking about playing in last year’s playoffs with the Pats. With Brown as their starting goalie, the Pats enjoyed a dream regular season finishing first overall in the WHL with a 52-12-7-1 mark in the 2016-17 campaign, and they were rated first in the final Canadian Hockey League Top 10 rankings.
    After sweeping away the Calgary Hitmen in the first round of the playoffs, the Pats found themselves trailing a best-of-seven second round series against the Swift Current Broncos 3-1.
Tyler Brown deflects a puck away from the Blades net on Saturday.
    Having pulled out a 3-2 victory in Game 5 of that series in Regina, the Pats found themselves trailing the Broncos 3-1 during the second period in Game 6 on April 15, 2017 at the Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current.
    The sellout crowd of 2,890 spectators was cheering in a raucous frenzy, and there were hecklers telling Brown they thought he was the weak link on the Pats team. The Pats were looking sluggish on their bench due to giving up two goals in the first 2:27 of the second frame to fall behind.
    After those tallies put Swift Current up 3-1, Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin broke in on Brown on a breakaway, and the crowd rose to their feet anticipating another score. Brown stoned Gawdin on that chance to the disappointment of the onlookers.
Tyler Brown makes a stop in the 2017 WHL playoffs.
    The star puck stopper made a number of big saves afterwards and 34 in total to keep the Pats in the game. The visitors found momentum on Brown’s save. The Pats scored twice near the end of the second period to force a 3-3 and would pull out a 5-3 victory.
    Regina returned home to romp to a 5-1 victory in Game 7 just two nights later. The Pats completed the first comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in team history.
    With Brown in goal, they advanced to the WHL championship series falling 4-3 in overtime in Game 6 in Regina to the Seattle Thunderbirds, who claimed a 4-2 series victory.
    The save on Gawdin that night in Swift Current would be Brown’s signature moment in the WHL, because it was the play that allowed the Pats playoff run to materialize.
    In his career, Brown appeared in 35 post-season games all with the Pats posting a 21-14 record, a 2.61 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts. He won four playoff series as the Pats netminder and is thankful for the experiences - including the 2017 post-season run - he had in his major junior career.
    “It is real special,” said Brown, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 178 pounds. “We had a lot of talks with veterans that played in the league before.
Tyler Brown is hugged by Austin Wagner after the Pats 2017 Game 7 win.
    “I definitely won’t be forgetting anything that I went through in the last four years. I’m happy. I love playing in the WHL, and it was a great time.”
    Of course, that led to the question about how Brown reflected on the situation of being traded out of Regina knowing the Pats were hosting the Memorial Cup tournament slated for May 18 to 27. He was the goalie that had carried the load for them as they came up two wins short from winning a league championship.
    Brown was also at the brunt of criticism from a number of fans in Regina, when the Pats hovered around .500 for most of the first half of the season, but he was given a rousing ovation during a video tribute on his return to Regina with the Blades on Jan. 24.
Tyler Brown makes a save in the 2017 WHL Eastern Conference finals.
    He handled the query in his trademark classy fashion.
    “It is a little disappointing you know (not) playing just like one step further than when I made it before,” said Brown. “When I came here, all I wanted for this team was for them to experience the playoffs while I was here.”
    In his true high character fashion, Brown said he wanted to do his best to help out Blades star rookie goalie Nolan Maier, who was playing through his 16-year-old season in the league. The veteran goalie had one point of advice he always tried to pass on to the youngster from Yorkton, Sask.
    “Sometimes bounces aren’t going to go your way,” said Brown, who received a big on ice hug from Maier after Saturday’s game. “Sometimes, he (Maier) would get a little frustrated with himself.
Tyler Brown, centre, aimed to be a good influence on Nolan Maier, left.
    “I just tell him to sit back and relax and just enjoy the game and stop the puck the way that he could.”
    The Blades finished the regular season with a 35-33-3-1 record to sit three point back of the Prince Albert Raiders (32-27-9-4) for the second wildcard berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
    In 42 games with the Pats and Blades, Brown posted a 19-17-3 record, a 3.44 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.
    While he won’t take part in the WHL post-season this year, Brown earned his street credit on the circuit. After the Blades win on Saturday, overage left-winger and fellow Saskatoon grad Braylon Shmyr picked up the game puck at the end of the contest for one person.
Tyler Brown salutes the fans at the SaskTel Centre on Saturday night.
    “That was for Brownie,” said Shmyr. “It was Brownie’s last game, because you know, he is a 20-year-old.
    “He had a hell of a career, and I thought that just paid respect for him.”
    Brown said the gesture was special.
    “It means a lot,” said Brown. “It just shows that he cares that we went out on a good note.
“It wasn’t just for me. It was for all of us.”
    Over his four complete seasons in the WHL, Brown appeared in 161 regular season games posting an 80-51-16 record, a 3.07 goals against average, a .903 save percentage and seven shutouts.
    Come fall, he plans to attend the University of Manitoba to pursue a bachelor of kinesiology degree and suit up for the Bisons men’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks. It is off to the next adventure.
Tyler Brown will be best remembered in the WHL for his time with the Pats.
    “It is bittersweet,” said Brown. “I had a lot of fun playing junior hockey, and I am excited to see what is next.”

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