PATS HOPE HOME COOK­ING SPICES UP CAUSE

National Post (National Edition) - - SPORTS - Ryan Mckenna in Regina

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

Regina, which was 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 that his team had nine days off fol­low­ing their play­off elim­i­na­tion be­fore go­ing into a three-week pe­riod of hard skat­ing and bat­tling.

Pad­dock was also 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 also was elim­i­nated in the open­ing round of the post-sea­son.

“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 that the train­ing rou­tine that 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. One of the tools in­volved split­ting the team up dur­ing prac­tice to re­duce the time on ice.

“When I spoke to Rocky (Thomp­son), the big­gest thing was less (ice time),” Struch said. “He did their work­outs early in the morn­ing, they didn’t overdo it as far as prac­tice and that was it.”

Regina strug­gled to find its groove until the sec­ond half of the sea­son and was boosted by a trade with Saska­toon that brought for­ward Cameron He­big and goal­tender Ryan Ku­bic to the Pats.

He­big was sec­ond in team scor­ing dur­ing Regina’s brief seven-game play­off spell with six goals and two as­sists. Steel led the team in scor­ing with 11 points, in­clud­ing 10 as­sists.

Max Pad­dock, the head coach’s nephew, will start in net for the team’s opener against Hamil­ton. The 17-year-old was in­jured dur­ing the first round and the coach men­tioned Pad­dock’s strong sec­ond half was a fac­tor in his de­ci­sion.

Ku­bic’s play in the first round against Swift Cur­rent, how­ever, was not an is­sue.

“There’s no wrong de­ci­sion to make,” John Pad­dock said. “We feel com­fort­able with both goalies.”

TROY FLEECE / POST­MEDIA NEWS

The Regina Pats held their fi­nal prac­tice Thurs­day in ad­vance of the Me­mo­rial Cup, which be­gins Fri­day at the Brandt Cen­tre in Regina.

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