REGINA — While several of his Hamilton Bulldogs teammates huddled around a TV in the team hotel for Wednesday’s game at the Memorial Cup, Robert Thomas opted to stop watching shortly after the first period.
The Bulldogs’ star forward said that the game — a 6-5 win for the host Regina Pats (2-1) over the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos (0-3) — was out of Hamilton’s control.
Regina’s win set up a semifinal matchup against the Bulldogs (2-1) on Friday night at Brandt Centre while the Acadie-Bathurst Titan (2-1) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League advanced directly into the final on Sunday.
If Swift Current had won Wednesday, Hamilton would have received a berth in the Canadian major junior championship game.
“To get that extra game, maybe it will make us better,” Thomas said Thursday. ”It’s just good when we can sort of get our little revenge on Regina from Game 1.”
The Pats, who had more than six weeks off after being eliminated by Swift Current in the first round of the WHL playoffs, defeated the Bulldogs 3-2 in the round-robin opener last Friday.
Regina goaltender Max Paddock made 32 saves in the win and Nick Henry scored the winner with 32 seconds remaining in the third period.
“I think there was a lot more wrong with our game than not being able to find the back of the net,” Thomas said. ”We didn’t play well at all. The way we bounced back the last couple games and got better each game, I think that’s important and we’ll continue that next game.”
Hamilton captain Justin Lemcke didn’t think his team showed its full potential against the Pats.
“We’re excited to get a little bit of redemption against them and hopefully move on to the final.”
The Bulldogs rebounded for back-to-back wins over Swift Current and Acadie-Bathurst on Monday and Tuesday.
Bulldogs coach John Gruden said that he prefers playing in the semifinal than waiting until Sunday.
“Knowing our group, if we had to sit around for four days, a lot goes through your mind, a lot of distractions,” Gruden said.
The Pats, meanwhile, fell to the Titan on Sunday before Wednesday’s win over the Broncos. Henry scored a hat trick against Swift Current while captain Sam Steel had five assists. Steel leads the tournament in scoring with 11 points.
Regina coach John Paddock said that he’s not expecting anything different from the Bulldogs on Friday.
“They say their game wasn’t very good then. I don’t think ours was at the peak either after being off for 45 days,” he said. ”But we know they’re a good team.”
Both teams said that they expect a fast-paced game with each squad possessing quick offensive options.
Pats forward Jake Leschyshyn said that Regina has to push the pace of the game in order to get the advantage.
“That’s one of our best assets, we’re a fast playing team,” Leschyshyn said. ”I think when we push the pace, that’s when we’re playing our best hockey.”
Although the Bulldogs won’t get the luxury of another two days off before the final, Lemcke said that they’re trying to not let that bother them.
“We’re just kind of looking at it like everything happens for a reason,” Lemcke said.
“We’re going to expect a better Regina team than we faced in the first game and we’re going to have to be a lot better as well.”