Pats look to em­u­late Spit­fires


The Regina Pats don’t have to look far back to find in­spi­ra­tion as they en­ter the 100th Me­mo­rial Cup.

Regina, elim­i­nated in the first round of the Western Hockey League play­offs by even­tual cham­pion Swift Cur­rent on April 2, opens the Cana­dian ma­jor ju­nior cham­pi­onship on Fri­day against the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs of the On­tario Hockey League.

The Pats will try to em­u­late what the Wind­sor Spit­fires did last year — claim­ing Me­mo­rial Cup glory af­ter be­ing elim­i­nated in the first round of their league play­offs. Ten teams have won the Me­mo­rial Cup as hosts since the tour­na­ment’s cur­rent four-team for­mat be­gan in 1983.

“Not that we had any doubt, but with Wind­sor win­ning it last year, it showed that it can be done,” Regina cap­tain Sam Steel said Thurs­day.

“We went through a very sim­i­lar train­ing process, so it’s kind of a con­fi­dence booster knowing that.” Regina is host­ing the Me­mo­rial Cup for a sev­enth time and is in its 100th sea­son as a fran­chise. The Pats have won the Cana­dian Hockey League ti­tle four times, most re­cently in 1974.

The Pats have ap­peared at the tour­na­ment on 16 oc­ca­sions — the most of any team in CHL his­tory. The last time Regina was the host in 2001, it also lost out in the first round of the WHL play­offs. The Spit­fires fell to Lon­don in the first round of last year’s OHL play­offs, but used the long lay­off to their ad­van­tage by go­ing un­de­feated on home ice at last year’s Me­mo­rial Cup.

Pats head coach John Pad­dock said his team had nine days off fol­low­ing their play­off elim­i­na­tion be­fore go­ing into a three­week pe­riod of hard skat­ing and bat­tling.

Pad­dock was able to build off the ex­pe­ri­ence of as­sis­tant coach Dave Struch, who was Saska­toon’s head coach when the Blades hosted the Me­mo­rial Cup in 2013. That Blades team was elim­i­nated in the open­ing round of the post­sea­son.

“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way,” Pad­dock said about prepa­ra­tion plans.

“We did talk to Rocky Thomp­son (Wind­sor’s head coach last sea­son) ... and Dave Struch was in­volved in one, but I don’t think it’s a lot dif­fer­ent than any­body else would have done.”

Struch said the train­ing rou­tine he helped Pad­dock de­velop is sim­i­lar to what his team in Saska­toon did along with both Wind­sor and host Shaw­ini­gan in 2012 when the Cataractes won the ti­tle.

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