It isn’t often, if ever, home fans throw their caps on the ice for an opposing player’s hat-trick. That rare occurrence, which happened Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, can only be to commemorate a special player. Connor Bedard showed he is just that, as the generational talent scored three goals, in leading the Regina Pats to a 9-5 WHL victory over the Victoria Royals.
When the story of the Memorial Centre is told upon demolition, it will be written that Olympic gold-medallists such as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated there, the Toronto Raptors and Canadian national team players such as Andrew Wiggins scored baskets there and that Connor Bedard once scored a hat-trick in the building as a young man.
The 17-year-old prodigy attracted a sell-out crowd of 7,006 as the Pats moved to .500 at 11-11-2 by downing the lowly Royals to send Victoria reeling to 3-17-3.
“The sold-out crowd was electric. It was exciting for the whole group. We thrive on the energy of a full building,” said Bedard, following the game.
Fans were lined six deep outside the Pats dressing room after the game, hoping to catch a glimpse of Bedard, and maybe get an autograph. One of the signs held up by fans in the Memorial Centre alluded to Bedard and flip flops, in reference to the Anaheim Ducks being last in the NHL, and with the current best odds in the draft lottery of landing Bedard with the first overall pick in 2023.
“I don’t think about it too much and block it out as much as I can,” said Bedard, of the pressure building to the draft.
“I’m just doing what I love.”
Bedard became the youngest WHL player to hit the century mark when he recorded 100 points last season, including 50 goals, as a rookie. He is already more than halfway there this season with 53 points after 24 games on 22 goals and 31 assists.
Victoria forward Brayden Schuurman, returning from injury which has limited him to five games this season, scored twice. Also scoring for the Royals was NHL draft-ranked blue-liner Kalem Parker. Schuurman and Parker were teammates of Bedard’s with Canada at the 2022 IIHF world junior championship last spring in Germany. Danish-import Marcus Almquist, also returning from injury, scored for the Royals and Jake Poole with his 13th of the season. Victoria’s power play was effective in going 4-5.
Linemate Tanner Howe matched Bedard’s hat-trick plus some for Regina with four goals and two assists to Bedard’s three goals and one assist.
“They [Royals] were tough to play against,” said Bedard, who said he exchanged good-natured pleasantries with Schuurman and Parker.
Victoria goaltender Tyler Palmer was away without explanation for the second week. Back-up Logan Cunningham allowed four goals on his first eight shots and seven on his first 15 shots.
The Royals will face another Eastern Division opponent on Tuesday night when the Moose Jaw Warriors come to the Island.