It’s been a long five weeks of rehearsal, but now the Regina Pats get to perform.
After being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Swift Current Broncos, the Pats spent the better part of a month at the rink skating, lifting weights and eagerly waiting for the Memorial Cup to start.
As hosts of the Memorial Cup, Regina had a bye into the tournament. The team had wanted to win their way into the championship, but that was not to be.
“This isn’t the route we wanted to take but it’s the route we were lead to,” explained defenceman Josh Mahura. “We’ve worked really hard and we feel we’ve made the most of our time here and we’re going to be ready on Friday.”
“(We’re) seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now and everyone’s really excited to get ‘er going,” he added.
Head coach John Paddock has noticed that the intensity has really picked up over the last few days for his team after some slower days in the weeks before the tournament.
“I was talking to Libor (Hajek) for example … he said two weeks ago there’s no media, there’s no stuff in the seats, we’re not even in our rink it seems like you’re never (going to play),” Paddock said. “That affects your jump, your drive your adrenaline but (now) it’s altogether different, so I don’t think there’s any question, everybody’s excited.”
Regina will kick-off the week-long tournament on Friday against the Ontario Hockey League champion Hamilton Bulldogs, play Acadie-Bathrust of the QMJHL on Sunday and finish the round-robin against the WHL champion Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday.
There hasn’t been a lot of time for the Pats to prepare for Hamilton or Acadie-Bathurst, but the players don’t seem too concerned about it.
“We know (Hamilton’s) going to come out tough and be a hard team to play against … but we think we have a team that can beat anyone in this league,” said defenceman Brady Pouteau.
And what Paddock wants more than anything is for his team to send a message.
“Just establish that we’re in the game. Leave no doubt. It doesn’t even have to mean scoring establish that we’re in the game, that we’re just as ready as the other teams,” Paddock said.
Paddock also made the decision that Max Paddock would be getting the start in net to begin the tournament.
Puck drop against the Hamilton Bulldogs is at 8 p.m. At the Brandt Centre.