Lethbridge coach full of praise for po­tent Pats

Regina Leader-Post - - SPORTS - GREG HARDER gharder@postmedia.com

The Regina Pats and Lethbridge Hur­ri­canes have lobbed a lot of com­pli­ments back and forth head­ing into the WHL’s Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

Their pleas­antries will likely come to an end when the puck drops Fri­day night at the Brandt Cen­tre, but Hur­ri­canes head coach Brent Ki­sio won’t be the one to fire the first shot.

“They’re such a good hockey team,” Ki­sio of­fered. “They’re so deep, they have great goal­tend­ing, their D can move the puck. There’s a rea­son they’re No. 1 in Canada. They are that good. It’s go­ing to be a big, big chal­lenge for us.”

The Hur­ri­canes have re­sponded to ev­ery chal­lenge so far.

Af­ter over­com­ing a 3-1 se­ries deficit against the Red Deer Rebels, Lethbridge pre­vailed in a tough seven-game clash with the Medicine Hat Tigers (51-20-1-0), who owned the WHL’s sec­ond-best record this sea­son be­hind Regina (52-12-7-1).

Lethbridge (44-21-4-3) over­came in­juries to five reg­u­lars ver­sus Medicine Hat: For­wards Matt Al­faro, Zak Zborosky, Ryan Van­dervlis and Zane Franklin, along with de­fence­man Calen Ad­di­son.

“We had a lot of ad­ver­sity in that se­ries,” Ki­sio said. “Lucky enough for us, a lot of the guys who came in did a great job. It was just awe­some to see our team come to­gether and re­ally show the char­ac­ter and lead­er­ship in our room. We’re very proud of our guys.”

The Hur­ri­canes con­cluded their sec­ond-round se­ries on Tues­day — one day af­ter Regina elim­i­nated the Swift Cur­rent Broncos.

Nei­ther side has had much time to rest or pre­pare.

“It’s a quick turn­around for both teams,” Ki­sio said. “The dif­fer­ence with us is, the first round was a quick turn­around as well so we haven’t had a lot of days off. We didn’t sweep our first round (like Regina did) but, a good way to look at it is, we just have to keep play­ing and keep do­ing what we’re do­ing. We’re happy to be alive and still go­ing.”

As for the in­jury sit­u­a­tion, Lethbridge is still “pretty banged up,” Ki­sio said. “It doesn’t look like we’ll have a lot of guys com­ing back any time soon.”

The Pats are with­out cen­tres Adam Brooks and Jake Leschyshyn, along with de­fence­man Daw­son David­son.

Brooks is the only one who might have a chance of re­turn­ing against Lethbridge.

“Ob­vi­ously Adam Brooks is a pretty spe­cial player,” Ki­sio said. “We’ll ap­proach it as if he’s play­ing and if he’s not they have about 11 other guys who can score goals, too. They’re just a great hockey team.”

Regina and Lethbridge have some fa­mil­iar­ity af­ter meet­ing in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Al­though the Pats fin­ished 14 points back in that reg­u­lar sea­son, they knocked off the 46-win ’Canes in five games.

Al­though the Hur­ri­canes’ ros­ter in­cludes some of the same head­lin­ers — in­clud­ing cap­tain Tyler Wong and goalie Stu­art Skin­ner — much of their team has changed due to grad­u­a­tion and trades.

“Our team is completely dif­fer­ent,” Ki­sio said. “What our guys learned who were here is how much harder you have to com­pete in playoffs, but we’ve played two rounds since then so I don’t think last year even comes up in any­body’s mind any­more.”

New team. New mind­set. “We’ve learned that any­thing is pos­si­ble right now,” Ki­sio said. “It doesn’t mat­ter who’s in, who’s out. If we go out there and com­pete, it gives us a chance. We know how heav­ily favoured Regina is go­ing to be. They have the best coach in the league and some of the best play­ers so we have our work cut out for us. But it’s go­ing to be a fun chal­lenge.”

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