When the Regina Pats skated off the ice in Swift Current having lost Game 7 of their first WHL Eastern Conference first-round series to the Swift Current Broncos on April 2, they knew it would be a long time before they laced up the skates for another game.
That wait is now just over a week away.
After putting in many practices, team-building exercises and other things to get ready for the Mastercard Memorial Cup, the team can now see the light at the end of the tunnel knowing that on May 18 they will play either the Hamilton Bulldogs or Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to get the 1ooth edition of Canada’s junior hockey championship underway at the Brandt Centre,
Defenceman Josh Mahura says there is a level of excitement there now that the end is near.
“It’s been a long haul, and we still have some time to use wisely and prepare, but it is starting to get exciting for us. The ice is painted up and the atmosphere is building” Mahura said. “We’ve been working really hard and it’s gotten to the point that we just want to play and get going. We’ve gotten our confidence back after not playing for so long.”
Head Coach and General Manager John Paddock likes what he has seen from his team since their elimination and while he wouldn’t use the word excitement, he can sense the anticipation.
“For sure, they feel different about it and they know what the calendar says.” Paddock stated. “They’re starting a get little more serious now as we expand our practice groups. Everyone understands it is right around the corner.”
Paddock was asked if his team is a better one now than the one that left the ice in Swift Current. He says that would be tough.
“That’s hard to say because we were pretty good in that game for the most part,” Paddock said with a chuckle. “As I have said from January on we were a work in progress so I think that should be better. We will be healthier, we will be rested so we are accentuating the positives.”
One question that remains unanswered and probably will go unanswered for a while yet is who the team will have in net for that first game. While Max Paddock played well down the stretch, an injury just before the playoffs meant Ryan Kubic had to guard the goal against Swift Current. In the seven game series, Kubic posted a goals against average of just over 3. Paddock says he hasn’t decided what goalie will play against the Ontario League champs and that both have shown they deserve the opportunity.