NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Pats set for five at Brandt Cen­tre

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - GREG HARDER gharder@postmedia.com

No one is hap­pier to be home than Dave Struch.

The Regina Pats’ as­sis­tant coach/ as­sis­tant GM has es­sen­tially been away for six-plus weeks due to his team’s road-heavy sched­ule cou­pled with a stint on Canada’s coach­ing staff at the World Un­der-17 Hockey Chal­lenge.

Struch ac­com­pa­nied the Pats on Oct. 23 when they de­parted for a four-game Cen­tral Di­vi­sion swing. Af­ter end­ing the trip in Edmonton on Oct. 29, Struch jumped on a flight and headed west to Daw­son Creek, B.C., for the world un­der­17s. He re­joined the Pats just be­fore their an­nual West Coast swing in mid-Novem­ber. They went on to play eight straight road games, the last one com­ing on Wed­nes­day, a 7-4 loss to the Bran­don Wheat Kings.

It was a hec­tic pe­riod, which took its toll.

“I in­tro­duced my­self to my kids this morn­ing,” Struch said with a smile be­fore Thurs­day’s prac­tice at the Brandt Cen­tre. “I fi­nally un­packed, took a deep breath. It was awe­some.”

No less so for the Pats, who will play their first of five straight home con­tests Fri­day against the Kelowna Rock­ets. It’ll be their first game at the Brandt Cen­tre since Nov. 15 — a span of 23 days.

“It’ll be nice for our group to start prac­tis­ing in this build­ing again, get some home games in, start to feel good about our­selves and get some rest,” Struch said. “You’re sup­posed to play the same way (on the road) but un­til you get home and get the proper rest it does make a dif­fer­ence.”

The Pats went 3-5-0 on their eight-game swing and re­turned home with a sea­son record of 1513-0. That’s be­low ex­pec­ta­tions for the host team of the 2018 Memo­rial Cup.

“Ob­vi­ously our in­con­sis­ten­cies have been the big­gest prob­lem,” Struch said. “But we have as of late seen a lot of real good things both de­fen­sively and of­fen­sively. Those are the things we’re pulling out of our games on a pos­i­tive note for our play­ers to see. We do need some­thing to build off and there’s lots there for us. If you look at the stand­ings, we have to start climb­ing and these home games are go­ing to be very im­por­tant for us.”

The Pats’ re­cent strug­gles have al­lowed the front-run­ning Moose Jaw War­riors to open up a 14-point lead over Regina in the ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive East Di­vi­sion. The Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos are 10 points ahead of the Pats and the Wheat Kings sit nine up.

In the era of the “loser point” for over­time and shootout losses, it has be­come much tougher for teams to close a sig­nif­i­cant gap in the stand­ings.

If the Pats are go­ing to have a shot at catch­ing any of the afore­men­tioned teams, they need to start now.

“It couldn’t re­ally be bet­ter tim­ing (to be home),” said vet­eran for­ward Matt Bradley, whose team has a 6-9-2 road record com­pared to 9-4-0 on home ice. “We al­ways play good hockey here at the Brandt. It’s go­ing to be nice to get in front of the home­town crowd and have them on our side and have all the en­ergy (they pro­vide). Ev­ery­one is ex­cited to be home and put on a show for our fans.”

Fol­low­ing the Pats’ five-game home­s­tand, they’ll pay a visit to Saska­toon on Dec. 17 for their fi­nal game be­fore the Christ­mas break. If the team can put to­gether a pos­i­tive stretch, it could pro­vide some mo­men­tum head­ing into the sec­ond half.

“It’s good to get some games on the road out of the way early,” said cen­tre Jake Leschyshyn.

“We’re a good home team so if we can take ad­van­tage of that from now un­til the end of the sea­son I think it’ll be re­ally cru­cial for us.”

Note: Fans are asked to bring a new plush toy to Fri­day’s game for the an­nual Teddy Bear Toss. A lim­ited num­ber will be avail­able for pur­chase at the game. The toys will be de­liv­ered to Regina hos­pi­tals as well as the Sal­va­tion Army and the Regina Pal­lia­tive Care Inc.’s Car­ing Hearts Camp.

POSTMEDIA/FILES

Regina Pats as­sis­tant coach and as­sis­tant GM Dave Struch was on the road for six weeks be­cause of dual com­mit­ments.

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