The Seattle Thunderbirds won their first WHL Championship 40 years after they arrived in town in 1977, a great achievement for the team but sadly it comes at the expense of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Adam Brooks, whose season ended with an injury filled playoffs, two wins short of a championship.
May 5th - Home
L 2-1 - No Points
Adam Brooks was knocked out of the game after a huge hit from Seattle’s Turner Ottenbreit.
The Thunderbirds would win the game 2-1. Brooks has had some pretty bad injury luck these playoffs so far. From the Regina Leader-Post:
(Seattle) Netminder Carl Stankowski did indeed come as advertised. The 16-year-old rookie had just five regular-season starts under his belt before running the table in the playoffs because of an injury to veteran Rylan Toth.
“We know he’s a good goalie,” said Pats forward Austin Wagner, who was stopped on a third-period breakaway. “He’s quick, small and gets across the net pretty quick. We have to get shots on net and crash the net and get them up high if we have a chance.
“We know what we have to do against him and just take it into tomorrow and be ready.”
They might have to do it without captain Adam Brooks, who was clobbered by an unpenalized open-ice check from Turner Ottenbreit in the second period. Brooks, who suffered an apparent head injury, remained face-down on the ice after the collision but eventually sat up and made his way to the medical room under his own power.
He didn’t return.
May 6th - Home
W 4-3 OT - Did Not Play
Brooks missed game two of the finals, recovering from the hit that knocked him out of game one, but the Pats weren’t about to spend a day on the bus to Seattle worrying about being down 2-0 and having to win three straight in the Emerald City. From the Regina Leader-Post:
After losing 2-1 in overtime at the Brandt Centre on Friday, the Pats suddenly fell behind 3-1 during Saturday’s second period — thanks to three Seattle goals in a 56-second spasm.
The Pats’ 25th sellout crowd of the season — a friendly gathering of 6,484 that greeted special guest Chris Jones with a medley of boos and moderate applause — was suddenly subdued after the Thunderbirds’ flurry.
But, once again, the John Paddock-coached Regina side demonstrated the resilience for which it has been noted during the 2017 playoffs. The Pats answered with the final three goals, including Josh Mahura’s winner 5:22 into sudden-death play.
May 9th - Away
W 3-2 - Did Not Play
Brooks is still out with an injury suffered in game one of the finals. The Pats and Thunderbirds traded power play goals in the first period, but the final goal was scored early in the second by Robbie Holmes, and the Pats hung on to win the first of three games in Seattle to put themselves up 2-1 in the series. From the Regina Leader-Post:
“The 2-3-2 can be a tough thing when you lose your first game (on the road trip),” noted Pats head coach/GM John Paddock. “It was big (to win). I don’t know if putting pressure on (Seattle) is the right word but it gets the home-ice advantage back to us. It’s very important to get home-ice advantage back just for (any doubt) in the back of everybody’s minds.”
Speaking of mental hurdles, Tuesday’s win also gave the Pats their first taste of a hostile environment in Kent. It’s not the first cold reception they’ve received in these playoffs but it was still rather unique.
“It’s a little bit different crowd than our sellouts (in Regina) or Swift (Current) or Lethbridge,” Paddock said in describing the “party” atmosphere created by T-Birds’ fans. “They’re just a little bit livelier. I thought it was an exciting atmosphere. It was lots of fun being involved in it.”
Despite having their hands full in Game 3, the Pats did take some time to soak in the ambiance at ShoWare Center.
The chant-happy locals made quite an impression.
“I won’t say they’re better than our fans,” offered Hobbs. “I would never say that and I don’t believe that. But they have some chants and stuff that are a little bit different: ‘Regina sucks!’ It’s loud and it’s intense. It’s lots of fun.”
Especially when you win.
May 10th - Away
L 6-1 - Did Not Play
Brooks missed his third game in a row and the Thunderbirds took advantage of the depleted line up, putting six goals past Tyler Brown before he got the hook. With the series tied up, it’s looking like the WHL champ will be the least rested team in the Memorial Cup. Windsor has been off for a month, Saint John swept their way to the QMJHL title, and Erie only needed five games to oust the Mississauga Steelheads. From the Regina Leader-Post:
It was the most-lopsided loss of the season for the Pats, who will have an extra day to regroup before returning to ShoWare Center for Game 5 on Friday night.
“We’re gonna leave the rink tonight pissed off,” said Pats defenceman Josh Mahura. “But we’re going to come back to the rink ready to work (for practice on Thursday) and ready to learn from what happened. We’ll go into Friday with a clear mindset.”
Believe it or not, Regina got off to a promising start in Game 4 thanks to Sam Steel’s power-play goal with 6:45 left in the first period.
That lead would hold up for exactly 2:51, at which point Seattle’s Ryan Gropp replied with the man advantage to open the floodgates.
May 12th - Away
L 7-4 - Did Not Play
Brooks missed this game as well, and the Thunderbirds took control of the game early and never let up. In the final home game in Seattle the Thunderbirds won by putting a huge amoutn of goals past the Pats for the second game in a row. From the Regina Leader-Post:
“The big thing is we have to stay out of the penalty box; it’s pretty simple,” said Pats head coach/GM John Paddock, whose team allowed three power-play goals on five chances and scored once on three opportunities.
“The game was 3-3 (without the empty netter) if nobody had any power-play goals. There are some things we can do better but that’s the starting point. You can’t beat yourself.”
The Pats thought they had moved past their season-long discipline issues, only to have them crop up again at the worst possible time.
As a result, the team is down to its last life — needing back-to-back wins to capture the franchise’s first league title since 1980.
“We have lots of belief in the team, lots of belief going back (home),” Paddock said. “That’s why we did all we could to finish first overall this year, to have that. We believe it’s going to work out.”
This isn’t the first time the Pats have been on the ropes in the 2017 playoffs. They were down 3-1 in the second round against the Swift Current Broncos and staved off elimination twice before winning it in Game 7.
The climb isn’t as daunting this time around, but the calibre of opponent makes it that much tougher.
May 14th - Home
L 4-3 OT - Did Not Play
Adam Brooks dressed so he could support his team and try to contribute after missing games two-five when he possibly had a concussion after an open ice hit in game one. It wasn’t enough, as the Thunderbirds out shot the Pats 41-30 and scored the winner over halfway through the extra frame. The Pats were hoping to be reigning WHL Champions next year as they host the 100th Memorial Cup tournament, but will have to settle for second best. From the Regina Leader-Post:
The Thunderbirds arrived in Regina having won two straight home games by a combined score of 13-5. Sunday’s contest reverted to previous form as the teams staged their fourth one-goal game of the series.
The Pats hoped that captain Adam Brooks would put them over the top after he missed four-plus games with a concussion. The 20-year-old centre was hurt in Game 2 by a controversial open-ice check from Turner Ottenbreit, who avoided a penalty but couldn’t escape the incessant chorus of boos from Regina fans.
Brooks didn’t hit the scoresheet in Game 6, but his addition fortified the Pats’ depth up front and helped give their battered lineup a fighting chance.
Regina’s Nick Henry had a great chance to end it with 7:53 left in OT when he walked in alone on Stankowski but couldn’t bury the backhand.
Less than 30 seconds later, Aaron Hyman fired a long lead pass up to Kolesar, who neatly dropped it off to True in stride. The 6-foot-4 import raced in 2-on-1 and fired a shot that was stopped by Brown but True grabbed his own rebound and deposited it into the open net to send the T-Birds pouring off their bench.
“I don’t really have any words to describe it,” said True. “It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before.”
Ditto for Brooks, but for different reasons.
The last game of his five-year WHL career — all with the Pats — ended in heartbreaking fashion after it looked like the home team was headed for Game 7.
In his post draft season, Adam Brooks has shown that the Toronto Maple Leafs may have some future centre depth after all. His 130 point campaign followed up a draft where people questioned the Maple Leafs picks - they were too old, too off the board, too big, too slow - and showed he was more than someone passed over 302 times before.
After multiple injuries this post-season, a long summer off may be best for Brooks. He’ll be away until the Maple Leafs rookie tournament in September, and perhaps stick to the end of Leafs camp again this fall, management will need a long look at him to decide what to do with him. Adam Brooks is done in the WHL, and the Maple Leafs hold his rights for one more season, and a decision will have to be made. Will he be signed to an NHL contract like Jeremy Bracco, or join the Marlies like J.J. Piccinch?