Host Pats open 100th Memorial Cup with win over Bulldogs
Nick Henry scores tiebreaker with 32 seconds remaining
Playing in the limelight has already become a strength of Regina Pats goaltender Max Paddock.
The 17-year-old made 31 saves and Nick Henry scored the winner with 32 seconds remaining in the third period on Friday night as the host Pats opened the 100th Memorial Cup with a 3-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs.
"This was certainly his biggest stage," Regina head coach John Paddock said of his goaltender and nephew. "But throughout his early life here in teens, he's played in a lot of big things in other sports that were the highest thing at that time from volleyball to baseball.
I mean it's the Memorial Cup so obviously I was nervous.— Regina Pats goalie Max Paddock on Friday night's Memorial Cup opener
"He has that knack it seems like."
Both Paddock and the Pats hadn't played in a game in over six weeks. Regina was eliminated in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs on April 2 by the Swift Current Broncos, who went on to win the league title.
'Just like any other game'
Paddock didn't even suit up in that series due to an injury. His last game action came over two months ago in a regular-season matchup against Swift Current on March 16.
Despite the break, the young goaltender didn't think nerves factored that much into the matchup.
"I mean it's the Memorial Cup so obviously I was nervous, but it was just like any other game for me," he said.
It took just 19 seconds into the second period for the Pats to find the scoresheet. Steel, the team's captain, one-timed a shot past Fulcher on the power-play to even the game at 1-1.
Regina's power play had struggled to find its groove until Steel's goal — a sign of the rust experienced from an over six-week layoff.
Thomas opened the scoring midway through the first period on a tipped Justin Lemcke shot from the point that went above the left shoulder of Paddock.
The Ontario Hockey League playoff MVP has now scored four goals in his last three games dating back to the league championship series against Sault Ste. Marie.
First for Bulldogs
It's the seventh team in Regina's 100-year history that is hosting Canada's major junior championship. The Pats have won the Canadian Hockey League title four times, most recently in 1974.
The Bulldogs are in their first Memorial Cup in just their third season since being relocated from Belleville.
Regina has Saturday off before facing Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Sunday. Hamilton, meanwhile, doesn't play again until Monday night against Swift Current.