Regina’s Henry, Steel propelling Pats towards promising finish

Sam Steel recorded five assists and the Regina Pats won an exciting game against the Swift Current Broncos at the Mastercard Memorial Cup.

REGINA — Matt Bradley didn’t directly contribute to an amazing performance from the Regina Pats’ top line.

But he was willing to accept some of the glory — specifically for Nick Henry’s hat trick.

“I should take credit for that. I brought him to a new coffee shop before the game and introduced him to something new,” Bradley said.

“I got him a caramel cappuccino. He’s a straight black-coffee guy.”

With a help of a new elixir, the 18-year-old winger helped propel the host Pats directly to a Mastercard Memorial Cup semifinal berth with a 6-5 win over the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday.

Henry led out a loud laugh — which measured equal parts amused and annoyed — after being told Bradley revealed his new lucky beverage.

After three goals, you can bet he’ll have another one before Friday’s matchup against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

“Brads showed me a new one,” Henry said, smiling. “It worked, so I’ve gotta keep going with it.”

Henry’s caramel cappuccino-fuelled hat trick means he tops the tournament’s goal-scoring list with five, and has seven points.

It helps playing with captain Sam Steel, who tied a tournament record with five helpers against the Broncos. Steel leads the tournament in assists (10) and points (11).

Steel now has nine assists in the last two games. On Friday, Henry was the benefactor, which was a sight to behold for the Pats.

“There were a couple times where I came off from a shift and I had my head buried because I was so tired. I looked up and Sammy and Hank were out a 2-on-1 again,” centre Jake Leschyshyn said. “I knew that puck was going in the net. That’s how dialled in they were.”

After playing with Steel last season — and for parts of this season — Henry was reunited with him ahead of the tournament by coach-GM John Paddock.

Paddock thought Henry would be a nice complement on the left wing to the veteran centre. Cameron Hebig, an over-age scorer acquired from Saskatoon to play with Steel in January, has rounded out the trio.

Hebig — who also had a goal in the victory over Swift Current — has three goals and five points over three games. The line has produced nine of Regina’s 15 goals.

So far, “it’s worked out,” said Paddock, stating the obvious.

Henry was among the WHL’s top offensive threats as a rookie last season. He produced 81 points while playing in all 72 contests. The Colorado Avalanche selected him in the fourth round (94th overall) last June.

But Henry played through a shoulder injury in the 2017 playoffs. The injury ended up being a torn labrum, which kept the six-foot, 191-pound forward out of the lineup until Nov. 10.

His production suffered as he produced 29 points in 53 games.

But that’s changed under the spotlight at this tournament.

“Being on that line, we have to step up. We have to produce,” Henry said. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve been able to do that all tournament.”

There’s no question which line Hamilton will be focusing on.

Regina won the tournament-opening matchup between the two teams. That was a game in which Henry scored the winner with 32.6 seconds remaining.

The Pats are the home team for the semifinal because of that win, which gives them last change.

Bulldogs coach John Gruden said he isn’t a concern with that disadvantage.

Although he wasn’t tipping his hand, Robert Thomas’s line with wingers Nicholas Caamano and MacKenzie Entwisle — plus veteran defencemen Justin Lemcke and Riley Stillman — is expected to be tasked with shutting down Regina’s top troika.

Regardless of who’s on the ice, Gruden said the Bulldogs need to avoid turning the puck over and taking penalties to limit Regina’s top offensive threats.

The Pats are a tournament-leading 41.7 per cent (5-for-12) with the man advantage. Henry has two goals in that situation and Steel has five points, while top blueliner Josh Mahura has four helpers.

“A lot of their points come off mistakes and turnovers from the opposition and on the power play,” Gruden said.

“We have a plan in place. That’s obviously one focal point for us. That’s a dangerous line. They score the majority of their offence. We’re going to have to make it really difficult on them.”

The Pats have no intention of rolling over, of course. It helps with Steel, Henry and Hebig playing so well together.

“The opportunity to be a champion with so few games, it’s really easy to get up for,” he said.

It’s also easy to get up for the game with a nice caramel cappuccino.

And Henry can thank Bradley for the helpful drink switch.

“We’ll have to go back there,” Bradley said.

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