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Saskatoon Blades face Pats in opening round of WHL playoffs

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The Saskatoon Blades' last two home games of the season have been against the Regina Pats, and with top NHL prospect Connor Bedard drawing big crowds wherever he's playing, almost 30,000 fans have come through the turnstiles at Sasktel Centre.

A Blades 3-2 win on Friday night secured a first round playoff matchup between the Blades and Pats, Regina's first trip to the postseason in five years.

“Obviously being on the team last year and having the frustration of not making it, we were close and we had so many games that we should have won, it was a tough pill to swallow,” said Connor Bedard. “It’s exciting to get in this year and compete on the big stage and when it matters most.”

With nearly 11,000 more people in the building than the Blades' season average, it's clear that a big part of that is 17-year-old Connor Bedard.

While the WHL’s leading scorer is staying focused on his job on the ice, he enjoys the atmosphere in Sasktel Centre.

“It’s fun, we played back to back and really good atmosphere both times,” Bedard told media on Friday. “It holds more people than I knew so a lot of people in here and it was loud and energetic, so it was fun.”

Blades coaches Brennan Sonne and Wacey Rabbit played in front of sold out WHL arenas during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, and while they’ve got advice to give, Sonne says it's important to let the players learn through it.

“It’s one thing to give the words of wisdom, its another to experience it,” said the Blades’ head coach. “As we all know, teenagers maybe don’t listen the first time, and sometimes experience is the best teacher. But in general when the puck goes down, we've been doing it all year, so they know what to do, you’ve just got to experience it and learn from that.”

For overage defenceman and Blades captain Aidan De La Gorgendiere, more of these crowds and games is a good thing.

“It's awesome, the boys feed on that,” said the 21-year-old from Langley. “It’s great energy, you can hear it every TV time out; every whistle, you can hear it. It’s pretty cool to be out there.”

Game one kicks off Friday night in Saskatoon, and if they’re anything like the last two games between these teams at 14,768 recorded fans each, tickets will be going fast.

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