When the fourth best team in the WHL rolls into town it’s always going to be a challenge – and it was just that for the Regina Pats on Wednesday night.
The Portland Winterhawks are in the midst of the eastern division swing and beat the Pats 5-2 after a shaky start by the home team.
“We got the lesson in speed and skill tonight from a real good team (with) real good young players,” head coach Dave Struch said after the game was over.
He admitted the first period for his team was one of the worst they’ve played since they returned from the Christmas break but was encouraged by what he saw later on in the game.
“I think in the end we had a real good third period, a real good push for us which is a positive sign.”
Portland’s Jake Gricius scored his 18th goal of the season to kick things off for Portland at the 8:40 mark of the first period.
Teammate Clay Hanus added the second goal of the night just seconds before the end of the period, throwing the puck at the night from the blue line and beating Regina Pats goaltender Dean McNabb to end the period.
The Winterhawks started the period off fast with Joachim Blichfeld scoring his league-leading 38th goal of the season.
But the Pats game picked up in the middle frame and Austin Pratt broke through late in the period tipping in a shot from Tyson Fiest to cut the lead to 3-1.
Jared Freadrich padded Portland’s lead less than three minutes into the third to make it 4-1, but Pats defensive Liam Schioler beat the Winterhawk’s tender Shane Farkas to make it 4-2.
The Pats pulled McNabb for an extra attacker late in the period but were unable to capitalize and Jaydon Dureau added an empty netter to seal things up for his team.
The loss marks the fifth straight for the Pats who haven’t won a game since Dec. 30 against the Prince Albert Raiders.
“I think the biggest thing is you can’t accept losing,” said Schioler about being in a rut. “We’re a team that wants to compete with everyone every night and have a chance to win and if we’re getting on ourselves then we don’t have that chance so all we can really do is stay positive and fight back.”
And for Struch, he said there are definitely some lessons to learn from the young Portland team they faced. It’s a place he wants to get the Pats back to in the future.
“It was a good lesson for all of us to see what they’ve done within that group over there,” Struch said. “We saw it four or five years ago – we had a game here that was probably the fastest game I’ve seen and that team has not tailed off at all. They play the game right, they play it fast and they have high-end players.”
The Pats are back in action on Friday night in Medicine Hat before returning to the Brandt Centre Saturday for a game against the Red Deer Rebels.
Saturday is also Barret Jackman bobblehead night.