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#WHLPlayoffs Roundup: Pats storm back to force deciding Game 7 with Broncos
Keith Hershmiller

 

Regina Pats (5) at Swift Current Broncos (3)
Series tied 3-3
Game 7: Monday, April 17 – Brandt Centre, Regina – 7 p.m. MT

For the second consecutive night, the Regina Pats have staved off elimination.

Trailing the Swift Current Broncos by a 3-1 spread in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal, the Pats scored a 3-2 victory in Game 5 on Friday before notching a 5-3 triumph in Game 6 back in Swift Current on Saturday night to force a seventh and deciding game back in Regina.

At one point, the Pats trailed Game 6 by a 3-1 margin before storming back with four unanswered goals to extend the series.

The first period of Game 6 provided ample evidence of the animosity and dislike that exists between these two Saskatchewan rivals. Bodies were flying left, right and centre, as both the Broncos and Pats scrapped for every inch during a frenetic opening frame Saturday night.

Away from the physical play, Austin Wagner opened the scoring 7:24 into the proceedings. Taking a pass in the slot, the recently-signed LA Kings prospect rifled a hot shot high over the blocker shoulder of Broncos goaltender Jordan Papirny to give the visiting Pats a 1-0 lead.

The Broncos battled back before the period came to a close as Russian defenceman Artyom Minulin fired a heavy point shot that somehow founds its way through a maze of sticks and bodies to tie the game 1-1 with 8:19 to go in the first period.

The physical play carried on from there and didn’t let up, even after the final buzzer sounded to end the opening 20 minutes of play.

Arthur Miller gave his team a great boost to start the second period. Only 29 seconds into the period, the 19-year-old product of Regina put the Broncos out front 2-1 with a quick strike. Less than two minutes later, Miller got in on the forecheck to help set up another tally for the home team. Miller shoveled the puck from the corner down low to Tyler Steenbergen, who shuffled it right back out front to Glenn Gawdin. The captain wasted no time, sending a quick snap shot past goaltender Tyler Brown and just like that, the Broncos enjoyed a 3-1 advantage 2:27 into the second period.

Trailing 3-1, Brown continued to battle in an effort to give his team a shot at the comeback. First, Brown flashed the leather to make a great glove save off a blazing Steenbergen, who was charging down the left wing on a power play. Then, he stretched out to make a great save off Gawdin on a breakaway opportunity moments later. As the period progress, the Pats found themselves killing yet another penalty and off the opening draw, Brown was once again forced to make a 10-bell save, stretching cross-crease to deny another Broncos opportunity.

Brown’s sequence of saves became all the more significant with what took place in the dying minutes of the period. First, Sam Steel’s wraparound attempt sent a loose puck through the blue paint of the Swift Current crease where Josh Mahura pounced to swat home the rebound, making it a 3-2 game with 1”24 to go. Only 59 seconds elapsed before Wyatt Sloboshan tied the game. A big shot from Mahura at the point was redirected on the doorstep by the veteran forward, slipping past Papirny and sending the two teams into the second intermission tied 3-3.

The visiting Pats maintained the momentum at the start of the third period. Wagner drove the net and was rewarded for his efforts only 1:15 into the final period in regulation as he stuffed home a rebound for his second goal of the night, giving Regina a 4-3 lead.

Filip Ahl provided the Pats with a little insurance by scoring the first playoff goal of his WHL career. Driving down the right wing, Wagner dropped a pass for Ahl who wired one past Papirny to make it a 5-3 game 5:48 into the third period.

That was all the Pats needed as they locked things down the rest of the way to stave off elimination for the second consecutive night, forcing a Game 7 back at the Brandt Centre in Regina Monday night.

As much as the four answered goals were critical, it was the play of Brown that allowed an opportunity for the Pats to execute at the offensive end of the rink. The veteran netminder made 34 saves – including the trio of critical stops in the second period – backstop his club. At the other end, Papirny turned aside 23 shots in defeat.

Sloboshan enjoyed himself a big night with a goal and two assists, while Wagner provided two goals and an assist of his own. Ahl was on the money as well, notching a goal and two assists. From the blueline, Mahura finished with a goal and an assist.

Gawdin (1G-2A) and Miller (1G-1A) provided key contributions for the Broncos.

The two teams head back to Regina for Game 7 at the Brandt Centre on Monday night (7 p.m. MT).

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