NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Pats set for five at Brandt Centre
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.
Regina Pats assistant coach and assistant GM Dave Struch was on the road for six weeks because of dual commitments.