Going into a new season it was expected the Regina Pats were not going to be the same winning team they had been before.
As 2018 Memorial Cup hosts, the Pats mortgaged their immediate future to field a respectable team for the national tournament.
It worked. The Pats went on to lose to Acadie-Bathurst in the finals, but it left the 2018-19 team with depleted resources.
Add to that the loss of several key cogs in that Memorial Cup team such as Sam Steel, Josh Mahura and Libor Hajek and the Pats have a completely different look.
But a new, young team isn’t an excuse for lazy play, according to head coach Dave Struch.
“We talk about our team identity being work ethic and that’s one thing that we were very inconsistent with,” said Struch, who took over the head coaching duties from John Paddock in the off-season. “We got to put things in perspective with who we played – Prince Albert’s going to be one of the top teams in the conference if not the league – so we’re going to give them some credit there but I think as individuals our players have to look in the mirror to give themselves a self-assessment of whether or not they want to come and be a part of the identity of this team.”
The Pats opened the season this weekend against the Raiders and dropped both games. Friday night losing 7-2 and Saturday 3-1. The wins are not going to come as easy as they once did, but Struch expects his players to put it on the line every night.
“There’s no excuse for lack of work ethic and in the end, that’s all we’re asking for from our guys. If we’re going to make mistakes working hard we can accept that and get better at it,” Struch said.
One place where it was evident was in the powerplay, where the Pats went 0-8 and did not seem to play as a cohesive unit. As the game went on little mistakes turned into big scoring chances and after holding the line for a period and a half, Max Paddock let one through. Two more would come, both on the powerplay.
The Pats only goal came in the first period courtesy of 20-year-old defenceman Aaron Hyman.
But when talking about hard work, Struch hopes that his team will look to their young goaltender, who seems to slough off pressure like it doesn’t exist. The 18-year-old Memorial Cup all-star has a knack for turning the page on a seven-goal night almost instantaneously and coming out to wow the night after.
“We can watch that as a group and watch how Max handles himself from last night to tonight and learn from it,” Struch said.
“I find it might be in my head a little bit but as soon as the puck drops and I make the first save everything’s out the window and I’m just playing hockey,” Paddock said after his 34-save night.
More so than ever, Paddock is aware that he may have to steal some games for his team – especially in these early days as the team continues to come together – but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“For sure I’m up for that. Development-wise it’s great to get more shots but anytime I can steal a game or two here it’ll be good for the team and good for me personally.”
The Pats will have a full week to shake off the opening weekend losses. Their next game is Friday, Sept 28 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.