The Regina Pats are one step closer to a Memorial Cup championship. One more step, actually.
The host of the 100th Memorial Cup defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-2 in the semifinal of the Canadian Hockey League's championship tournament on Friday night at Brandt Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, and now advances to the final for the first time in 44 years.
The Pats will face the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for the trophy on Sunday at 5 p.m. MT.
In the semifinal matchup, Regina led 1-0 after the first period and 2-1 after 40 minutes of play. The Pats' Sam Steel, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, scored with 5:55 left in the final stanza to extend the Pats' lead to two, but Hamilton's Will Bitten tallied his first of the tournament 73 seconds later to get the Ontario Hockey League champions back to within one.
The Bulldogs weren't able to even the score, as Jake Leschyshyn--son of former Colorado Avalanche forward Curtis Leschyshyn--buried an empty-netter with five seconds remaining to seal the Pats' trip to their first Memorial Cup championship game since 1974.
Avalanche prospect and Regina forward Nick Henry finished the contest with one shot on goal and a plus-2 rating. He leads the tournament with five goals and is tied for third overall with seven points.
Regina has won four Memorial Cup titles, the third most all-time, and will be going for its first championship since that 1974 team did it.
The Pats lost 8-6 to the Titan in round-robin action last Sunday, but it was a game where they nearly erased a five-goal deficit in the third period.
Acadie-Bathurst was one of the three teams to finish pool play with a 2-1 record but won the tiebreaker to advance straight to the final. The champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's last game was on Tuesday, a 3-2 loss to Hamilton.
Regina is looking to become just the ninth host team to win the Memorial Cup after not winning its league championship. The Windsor Spitfires accomplished that very feat last year.