The curtain rises on the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien Friday, March 31, and WHL.ca is previewing each of the eight First Round matchups. We continue by examining the series between the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats.
A battle between Saskatchewan’s two largest cities kicks off Friday when the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats meet in the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien.
The best-of-seven First Round series begins Friday, March 31 in Saskatoon (7:00 p.m. MT, SaskTel Centre).
Much of the attention, and outside noise, will centre around Pats captain Connor Bedard, who was named recipient of the Bob Clarke Trophy Sunday after running away with the League’s scoring title and selling out buildings across the Western Hockey League, including the 15,000 seat SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
But beneath that veneer lies a multi-layered series that offers plenty of intrigue. Saskatoon recorded one of the best regular seasons in Club history, winning 48 games and totalling 101 points, numbers both worthy of a Division title were it not for a 57-win campaign from the Winnipeg ICE.
Regina meanwhile, has more than Bedard to credit for an offence that scored the second-most goals in the Eastern Conference. The Pats are back in the post-season for the first time since hosting the Memorial Cup in 2018 and are sure to lean heavily on Bedard and his talented teammates including Capitals prospect Alexander Suzdalev.
Saskatoon will begin the series at home and will begin the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien as the number-three seed. Forward Trevor Wong led the Club in scoring, totalling 86 points, while 2023 NHL Draft prospect Egor Sidorov had a breakout year, leading the team with 40 goals. The team features NHL prospects in Brandon Lisowsky and Josh Pillar (Toronto Maple Leafs), Conner Roulette (Dallas Stars) and Jake Chiasson (Edmonton Oilers) up front, with defencemen Aidan De La Gorgendiere and Tanner Molendyk leading the way on the blue line. The Blades also went 8/19 on the power-play during the season series against the Pats.
Bedard was the story in Regina, and arguably around the WHL this season with his 143-point season, becoming the first player to surpass 140 points in a campaign since a trio of WHLers (two of them from Saskatoon) did so in 1995-96. The projected first-overall NHL pick had support in the form of Suzdalev (86 points) and 2024 NHL Draft prospect Tanner Howe (85 points), while Columbus pick Stanislav Svozil (79 points) was among the League’s leading producer from the blue line.
The Blades employed a tandem between the pipes, with both Austin Elliott and Ethan Chadwick enjoying success. Elliott made 37 appearances compared to Chadwick’s 34, posting a 2.20 goals-against average and .911 save percentage all while earning 25 wins to Chadwick’s 23. The pair shared a total of four shutouts over the course of the regular season, while Elliott earned three of the four victories against the Pats in the season series.
Regina staked its regular season fortunes in 19-year-old Drew Sim, who answered the bell with a 27-win season to go along with two shutouts. Both Sim and rookie Kelton Pyne recorded one victory each in the season series against Saskatoon.
Of the six meetings during the regular season, the Blades won four, though the two sides split the four meetings that took place in 2023. Wong led all scorers in the season series with an eye-popping 15 points, a total that included a hat-trick at Regina March 5. Lisowsky and Bedard each chipped in with nine points for their respective Clubs.
Despite their historic rivalry, the two sides have met only three times in the WHL Playoffs over the past 30 years, the most recent encounter coming in the First Round of the 2006 WHL Playoffs. Saskatoon won that series in six games, and have been victorious in two of the three most recent series between the Clubs.
|Saskatoon Blades||Regina Pats|
|Record||48-15-4-1 (2nd, East)||34-30-3-1 (4th, East)|
|Leading Scorers||Trevor Wong (27-59-86)
Egor Sidorov (40-36-76)
Brandon Lisowsky (38-33-71)
|Connor Bedard (71-72-143)
Alexander Suzdalev (38-48-86)
Tanner Howe (36-49-85)
|Leading Goaltender||Austin Elliott (25-6-3-0, 2.20, .911)||Drew Sim (27-17-2-0, 3.56, .893)|
|Power Play||27.5% (4th)||26.7% (7th)|
|Penalty Kill||82.4% (3rd)||77.0% (15th)|
|2022 WHL Playoffs||Lost First Round (Moose Jaw)||Did not qualify|
|Last WHL Championship||-none-||1980|
2022-23 REGULAR SEASON SERIES
Regina (2) at Saskatoon (3) – March 24, 2023
Regina (4) at Saskatoon (2) – March 19, 2023
Saskatoon (5) at Regina (2) – March 5, 2023
Saskatoon (4) at Regina (7) – January 13, 2023
Saskatoon (6) at Regina (1) – December 17, 2022
Regina (2) at Saskatoon (5) – November 13, 2022
Saskatoon Blades: Finishing second on the Club in goals, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Brandon Lisowsky has game-breaking ability within a deep Blades forward core. The Port Coquitlam, B.C. product scored 14 times on the power-play during the regular season, while his seven game-winning goals were second only to Egor Sidorov among Saskatoon skaters. Lisowsky has speed to burn and can score from all areas of the offensive zone.
Lisowsky sends a sold out crowd into a FRENZY!@MapleLeafs pic.twitter.com/UJntGijq4U
— x – Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) March 25, 2023
Regina Pats: Bedard is the obvious selection here; he has the ability to take games over all by himself, and will be the focal point of Regina’s attack as well as Saskatoon’s defensive approach. The 2023 NHL Draft prospect loves to shoot the puck, averaging more than six shots on goal per game over his 57 outings, plus he’s proven time and time again that he can be nigh on impossible to defend.
CONNOR BEDARD HAS 70!🚨@WHLPats | #NHLDraft | #CB98 pic.twitter.com/Rs73gGHCta
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 20, 2023
Saskatoon Blades: An East Division Second Team All-Star, Austin Elliott burst onto the scene in his first full season in the WHL, winning 25 games and posting a 2.20 goals-against average from his 37 appearances. Head coach Brennan Sonne likes to rotate his goaltending tandem, and Elliott’s earned more accolades over the course of the seasom but make no mistake, the Blades are just as comfortable with running mate Ethan Chadwick (23-9-1-2) tending goal.
📽️ SAVE OF THE NIGHT 📽
Just another pair of saves in what's been a sensational season for Austin Elliott.@RealCdnSS | @BladesHockey | #SaveoftheNight pic.twitter.com/3b8yo6fIMX
— The WHL (@TheWHL) November 14, 2022
Regina Pats: Drew Sim will get his first taste of WHL Playoffs action as the go-to-guy in Regina’s crease after winning 27 games during the regular season. Sim, from Tees, Alta., was a workhose, playing 2,799 minutes, and his 1,386 saves are the most of any goaltender competing in the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien. Sim can steal games, too, as evidenced by a 47-save shutout performance at Vancouver this past November.
DREW. SIM.@WHLPats pic.twitter.com/WhstNFjTG9
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 5, 2023
Saskatoon Blades: The Blades went out and acquired Dallas Stars prospect Conner Roulette last summer for moments like these. The 19-year-old is coming off a run to the WHL Championship Series with the Seattle Thunderbirds a season ago. Roulette finished fifth in team scoring, scoring 24 times for Saskatoon as part of a 65-point total, but it’s his past experience in high-pressure situations that will bode well in the post-season. In addition to his four rounds of playoff action last year, Roulette also won a gold medal with Canada at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championship in Texas.
Conner Roulette cashed in for three!🎩@BladesHockey | @DallasStars pic.twitter.com/v5Obnhwi80
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 11, 2023
Regina Pats: Speaking of playoff experience, defenceman Tanner Brown has plenty, reaching the Eastern Conference Championship with Winnipeg a season ago, while also serving as a black ace during the Vancouver Giants’ run to Game 7 of the 2019 WHL Championship Series. Brown, from Kelowna, B.C., chipped in with 33 points from the blue line this season and along with fellow 20-year-old defenceman Luke Bateman, he’ll be relied upon to slow down the speedy Blades forwards.
On the stick ➡️ off the stick.
Tanner Brown extends the lead for the @WHLPats. pic.twitter.com/nDa9sW6V52
— The WHL (@TheWHL) December 11, 2022
|1||March 31, 2023||Regina||Saskatoon||7:00 p.m. MT|
|2||April 2, 2023||Regina||Saskatoon||4:00 p.m. MT|
|3||April 4, 2023||Saskatoon||Regina||7:00 p.m. MT|
|4||April 5, 2023||Saskatoon||Regina||7:00 p.m. MT|
|5||April 7, 2023||Regina||Saskatoon||7:00 p.m. MT||*|
|6||April 8, 2023||Saskatoon||Regina||7:00 p.m. MT||*|
|7||April 10, 2023||Regina||Saskatoon||7:00 p.m. MT||*|
* – if necessary
Through WHL Live on CHL TV, fans can enjoy every single scheduled game throughout the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien with the purchase of a WHL All-Access Pass at the low price of $59.99 plus applicable taxes and fees.
WHL Live – 2023 WHL Playoffs Packages
Round-by-Round: $19.99 per round
24-Hour Access: $9.99
* all prices in Canadian dollars
+ does not include applicable taxes and fees
WHL Live on CHL TV is available to fans anywhere in the world, providing high-quality streaming of WHL games on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV platforms, via mobile with iOS and Android, and on web using Safari or Google Chrome web browsers. Visit WHLLive.com for complete details.