The two most exciting words in sports are Game 7.
Tonight, the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades will close out their memorable first-round series with a winner-takes-all contest at the SaskTel Centre.
The Pats forced the deciding matchup on Saturday night at the Brandt Centre with a 5-3 win.
For a young Pats team, many players will be taking part in their first Game 7 tonight, including the captain, Connor Bedard.
The 17-year-old is not too worried about any nerves since he has taken part in many crucial hockey games in his young career.
“I’ve been in those types of situations with World Juniors and that stuff but it’s definitely different.”
It’s hard to imagine the Pats defeating the Blades on Monday night without Bedard playing some type of key role.
Through six playoff games, the North Vancouver product has accumulated 19 points (10G-9A). Regina has the top three overall leaders in points during the first round of Western Hockey League (WHL) playoffs, defenceman Stanislav Svozil (3G-9A) and Alexander Suzdalev (3G-8A) rank second and third respectively.
Besides creating offence, Bedard has chipped in other areas, like shot blocking. This was evident during the late stages of Game 6.
Head Coach John Paddock says the Pats captain isn’t afraid of helping the team in any kind of way.
“He’s done that with some regularity when the situation calls for it.”
Momentum has shifted on numerous occasions between the Pats and Blades. Regina opened with a pair of wins on the road before the Blades took a pair of games at the Brandt Centre. The last two games have been claimed by the home team.
The way the series has unfolded between the two teams, Bedard isn’t surprised that it’s going to the limit.
“It’s been such a back-and-forth series, it really does deserve to go to a Game 7.”
Heading into the decisive game tonight, Paddock is expecting a close contest.
“Can’t go out and expect or tell your team to play perfect hockey, but probably the team that makes the least big mistakes.”
Paddock added that the Blades are a team that makes few mistakes.
Both teams have taken advantage of the power play when given the opportunity. Regina is second in the WHL Playoffs with 35.7% on the extra-man advantage while Saskatoon is fourth at 31.2%.
Saskatoon’s Egor Sidorov is tied with the league leaders with three power play goals during the playoffs.
Drew Sim will get the start for the Pats in net. The 2003-born goalie has 3.37 Goals Against Average (GAA) in the series. Saskatoon will likely counter with Ethan Chadwick, since replacing Austin Elliot in Game 2 of the series, the Blades netminder has a 3.31 GAA.
Coverage for tonight’s Game 7 on 620 CKRM will begin with the extended pre-game show, Dante De Caria will have the play-by-play beginning at 7:00.
If the Pats defeat the Blades, they will move on to meet the Winnipeg ICE, while the Blades will meet the Red Deer Rebels if they pick up the win over the Pats.