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03-29-2006, 11:26 AM
from reginapats.com

Pats back in business

Greg Harder, The Leader-Post
Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Practice didn't make perfect but it definitely paid off for the Regina Pats on Tuesday night.

Craig Schira's power-play goal 3:30 into overtime lifted Regina to a thrilling 5-4 playoff victory over the Saskatoon Blades before 5,619 spectators at the Brandt Centre.

Schira's blast from the point found its way through traffic to cap a modest 1-for-5 effort with the man advantage for Regina. By coincidence or not, the Pats had been dissecting their power-play unit in anticipation of Tuesday's contest after going 1-for-13 in the opening two games of the series -- both losses.

"We've been working on our power play a lot, trying some new things, and it really paid off tonight," explained Schira, who stepped into a perfect one-time pass from Logan Pyett. "No matter what you do in the playoffs, you have to be on top of your special teams every night. You just have to get pucks to the net and get traffic in front. The forwards did a good job of that tonight and it helped us out. "

With the win, Regina narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal. After dropping the first two games of the series in Saskatoon, the Pats will have a chance to even the score tonight when they play host to Game 4 (7 o'clock) at the Brandt Centre.

"I've never felt anything like it," Schira said after scoring Regina's first playoff-winning goal in two years. "I knew the goalie couldn't see it, so as soon as I saw the puck hit the net, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to celebrate."

The revelry won't last long.

"We want to enjoy this for about an hour and then get back to business," noted head coach Curtis Hunt, looking ahead to a crucial Game 4. "I'm proud of the way we played and it gives us an understanding of what it takes to win in the postseason. Now the challenge for us is: Can we do it again?"

The Pats had their legs going early on Tuesday night, buzzing around goaltender Anton Khudobin in search of that elusive first goal. Justin Bernhardt answered the bell at the 6:53 mark when he converted Matt Robinson's rebound to give Regina its first lead of the series.

The celebration was short-lived.

A catastrophic two-minute meltdown turned Regina's 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit when the Blades scored three goals in just 1:46 -- two from Devin Setoguchi and one from Wacey Rabbit.

Robinson resuscitated the home team at 6:44 of the second period when he took a cross-ice feed from Kyle Ross, cut towards the net and slipped a backhand past Khudobin.

Petr Kalus tied it up with 2:17 left in the frame, emerging from a pileup in the crease to deposit the game-tying marker.

The Pats kept their foot on the gas early in the third, taking the lead just 1:39 into the frame when Garrett Festerling deflected Pyett's point shot to make it 4-3.

Regina killed off two late penalties and appeared to be on the way to victory when Chad Klassen broke out the highlight reel with four minutes remaining. The Warman product walked around defenceman Nick Ross and went nose-to-nose with David Reekie, firing a high shot that just got past the goalie's outstretched glove.

Reekie later forced overtime by flashing the leather to stop a blast from Rabbit with 1:40 remaining.

"We didn't expect it to be an easy game," offered Setoguchi, whose team was outshot 39-28. "We didn't battle hard enough to get the victory. You have to give them credit. In the end they outworked us ... they stepped it up a notch."

EXTRAS: The Blades entered Tuesday's game having won three of their four visits to the Brandt Centre this season. That accounted for more than one quarter of Regina's 11 regular-season losses on home ice during the regular season (25-7-1-3) ... Pats C Ian Duval made his series debut after missing Games 1 and 2 with the flu. Right-wingers Michael Senseman and Brett Leffler are still out due to the virus ... Khudobin was named the CHL goaltender-of-the-week on Monday. He posted a 1.57 GAA and a .957 save percentage in two victories over Regina.

03-29-2006, 11:28 AM
from reginapats.com

It could have been an ugly, ugly night

Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2006

During a brief meltdown, the Regina Pats were sloppier than the Brandt Centre's parking lot.

Pats fans had barely finished dodging the puddles and evading the mud on the mildest evening of 2006, and the home side was already trailing 3-1.

The Saskatoon Blades had assumed a healthy lead by erupting for three goals within a 106-second span midway through Tuesday's first period.

Pats head coach Curtis Hunt wisely called a timeout. From the Brandt Centre's upper extremities, where select media carnivores were busily ingesting popcorn, you could almost hear what Hunt was saying to the players. The building was quieter than a mimes' convention.

By game's end, there was bedlam -- thanks to Craig Schira's winning goal at 3:30 of overtime.

"I think we watched our hockey team grow up tonight,'' Pats general manager Brent Parker said while his players and most of the 5,619 spectators celebrated a 5-4 victory.

"The guys didn't panic. It's a real credit to the coaching staff and the players. We watched our hockey club grow and mature. It's a huge, huge win for our organization.''

The Pats could easily have folded after incurring a 3-1 deficit. Instead, they registered three consecutive goals to go ahead 4-3 -- only to watch Saskatoon's Chad Klassen score with four minutes remaining in the third period.

Undaunted, the Pats responded once again. Regina's Matt Robinson forced a penalty to Saskatoon defenceman Joe Logan, who was called for hooking at 2:27 of overtime. Schira settled matters on the ensuing power play.

Pats fans can take some credit for the victory. Referee Andy Thiessen, who did not enjoy a banner evening, hesitated when Logan flagrantly hauled down Robinson. When the perturbed Pats partisans started barking, an obvious penalty was finally called.

Earlier, Thiessen had incurred the wrath of the Pats' faithful with a succession of non-calls. It was reasonable to expect a young team to become frustrated or flustered.

Instead, the Pats battling and forcing the issue. They were undeterred by adversity. They kept fighting through various impediments.

As an example, consider Garrett Festerling's goal which put the Pats ahead 4-3 at 2:39 of the third period. Thiessen could easily have called a penalty on Saskatoon within a 10-second span which preceded Festerling's go-ahead tally.

However, this is not the suddenly enlightened NHL. Excessive stickwork is tacitly condoned by WHL officials, who are merely following orders. Failing an NHL-style edict from WHL headquarters, teams will continue to push the envelope by using sticks as barriers.

That is how the game is played in the WHL, especially in the playoffs. The successful teams will cope with the situation instead of pouting.

The Pats did precisely that on Tuesday. They could have succumbed to the distractions and lamented a 3-0 series deficit. Instead, the resilient Pats snapped a nine-game playoff losing streak which dated back to 2003.

Afterward, Parker opined that the Pats were the superior team in Game 3. And, indeed, they are a far better team for having overcome the obstacles they faced Tuesday night.