The Regina Pats are headed back to the Western Hockey League Championship Series for the first time since 1984. The Pats will open the fourth round of the playoffs against the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday night in the Brandt Centre at 7:00 pm on 620 CKRM.
This historic Pats run as had many long-time fans recalling the 1984 WHL Playoffs, and the Pats falling in seven games to the Kamloops Jr. Oilers in the league final that year. Bobby Lowes was the Pats captain that year, and still thinks about the bitter way that series ended.
“I think about it a lot. It was a tough one,” Lowes said on 620 CKRM’s SportsCage on Monday. “We had a real close team. We battled hard through the playoffs and got there. They beat us the first two games in Kamloops quite handily and then we had to go back to Regina and we crawled our way back in and got up 3-2. We went back to Kamloops and were up in Game 6, and we gave up a goal with 12 seconds left to tie it. Then they won in overtime. The next night in Game 7 it was 2-2 going into the third and we lost 4-2 with an empty-netter.”
33 years later, those Pats players still see that series as “the one that got away”.
“We had it,” Lowes winced. “We were right there. And you never forget those things. As a group, we had a real tight team and that’s the one thing that really hurts. But that’s part of sports.”
Bob Lowes is now the Assistant Director of Player Personnel with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and will be scouting the WHL Final for the expansion team.
He joined the SportsCage on Monday from Kelowna, where he saw the Seattle Thunderbirds finish off the Rockets 3-1 in Game 6 on Sunday night.
“To start off, they’ve got the experience,” Lowes said of the Thunderbirds. “They went to the league final last year. And they’ve got the one line with Barzal, Gropp and Kolesar who are all drafted players. That one line is one of the best in junior. They’ve got a little bit of everything on that line. It makes their powerplay formidable.
“Ethan Bear is hurt but if he plays in the series, it’ll change things. They’ve got a real hard-working group and (Head Coach) Steve Konowalchuk has done a real nice job. And they’re getting a lot of mileage out of some defencemen who’ve been with other programs. It should be a real good series.”
Lowes makes his home in Regina and has been a regular at Pats games all season long. He realizes that just like that 1984 team, this year’s Pats club is a special group.
“I just really look at the push they can put on,” Lowes said of the Pats. “They’re not going to be able to play at that high level all the time but it seems that whenever they need to push within a game and go to that next level to score and win a game, they definitely have that. They can really play at a high pace and they’re determined. They’ve faced some obstacles in the playoffs and some resistance and they’ve pushed through. They’re battle tested.”
Some Pats fans feel the 2-3-2 format in the league final is somewhat strange, but it’s a long-standing custom in the WHL due to the distance between conferences. Lowes doesn’t think it’ll be a factor.
“The 2-3-2 format is not favourable one way or the other,” Lowes surmised. “The Pats are the Pats and it’s not going to matter because they can win on the road. If you look in the Swift Current and Lethbridge series, when they needed to win on the road to extend the series or close it out, they were able to do it. I don’t think that’s an issue.”
The Thunderbirds figure to give the Pats their stiffest test yet, and it has to be a benefit for Regina to be opening on home ice.
“Opening at home is great,” Lowes agreed. “They’ve played well at home. The big thing in a series like that, they knew Calgary, Swift Current and Lethbridge real well. In the Western League, you don’t play interlocking very much so they’ll rely on video of Seattle to be prepared.
“The biggest thing Regina has to do is play their game and be prepared for adjustments. They don’t want to change the way they play. It’s been good enough for them to finish first, get home ice all the way through and get this far.”