|Keith Hershmiller Photography|
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.
"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.
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.
John Paddock said before the game that there was no wrong decision to make whether it be starting Paddock or Ryan Kubic, who played in the first round against Swift Current.
He also warned his goalies about a recent Game 7 involving Nashville and Winnipeg Jets in the second round of the NHL playoffs in which the Predators pulled their goalie early in the first period following a rough start.
"I said to each of them separately, 'Did you see Game 7 with Nashville and Pekka Rinne getting pulled after eight minutes?' So you have to be ready,'' Paddock said.
The game appeared as though it was heading to overtime before Henry collected a rebound in front of the Hamilton net and wristed it past goaltender Kaden Fulcher. Josh Mahura and Sam Steel also scored for Regina.
Marian Studenic and Robert Thomas found the back of the net for the Bulldogs, the Ontario Hockey League champions. Fulcher turned aside 27-of-30 shots for Hamilton.
Bulldogs coach John Gruden said that his team got what they deserved.
"I think we could all say that wasn't us,'' he said. "Whether it's from too high from that and the quick turnaround, not taking anything away from Regina, they worked extremely hard.''
Mahura tied the game once again just at 15:30 of the second with a nice end-to-end rush which he finished off with a wrist shot that went top right-hand corner.
Studenic had given Hamilton a 2-1 advantage two minutes prior when his wrist shot went over Paddock's glove and just under the crossbar.
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.
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.
It's the seventh time in Regina's 100-year history that it is hosting Canada's major junior championship. The Pats have won the Canadian Hockey League title four times, most recently in 1974.
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.
Notes: A pre-game military themed ceremony featured soldiers rappelling from the rafters, a bagpiper and ceremonial puck drop... Attendance was 5,678.
(Canadian Press/Ryan McKenna)