Pats looking to reverse first-half struggles after holiday break

The WHL’s holiday break provides the players and coaches with a chance to rest and marks the halfway point of the WHL season.

For the Regina Pats, it wasn’t the first-half they were hoping for. The team is currently 12-16 and sits 11 in the Eastern Conference.

Ken Schneider, one of the assistant coaches for the Regina Pats, said they have stuff to work on.

“We are certainly not looking at using excuses, but we’ve had some injuries that were rather significant,” he said. “A couple of them were longer term. When you don’t have the depth that some of the top-end teams have, it does have an impact on you long-term.”

Two of those significant injures are Zack Stringer and Zack Smith. Stringer hasn’t played since later November and has played 16 games all season, picking up 10 points and six goals. Meanwhile, Zack Smith hasn’t played since November 3 and has picked up eight points in his 12 games.

He also said a mid-season coaching change has taken the team some getting used to.

“We did have a coaching change, which was difficult for everyone. There is a period of transition that you go through when you have something like that happen too.”

Schneider said, looking forward to the second half of the season; he wants them to be more disciplined.

“I think one of the key things is penalties. We’ve taken a lot of penalties at times, undisciplined penalties that you can’t afford to take,” he said. “Specialty teams win or lose games for you. If we wanted to do something better, it would be to take less penalties and also be better on our penalty kill.”

“We have to be a hardworking team, and we need to be disciplined, but we need to play well defensively in order to compete and have success,” he added. “That’s another sort of aspect of the game when we are playing 5-on-5 that really needs some improvement, in terms, of making sure we are picking up the loose man, the man without the puck.”

So far this season, the Pats are averaging 14.3 penalty minutes a game, which is tied for the second-most in the WHL. Regina also sits 16th in goals allowed (105).

It’s not all negatives; as Schneider said, the play from some of the younger players has been one of the positives.

“We’ve seen some really good growth in some of the young players. The likes of Tanner Howe, Borya Valis, just to name a couple, who have really stepped up and taken quite a step and advancement,” he said. “I think we have a really good young goaltender in Matthew Kieper. I think he has played some understanding hockey.”

Despite disappointing results in their first 28 games, the Pats sit only two points out of a playoff spot. Schneider said it is more than achievement, especially if the team can stay healthy.

The Pats will begin their second half on December 27 to host the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Veteran players Zack Stringer, Jake Johnson, and Zack Smith are all expected to return to the lineup.

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