Guess who’s back
Last season, the Regina Pats gave hockey fans in the Queen City something they hadn’t seen in three years – which is long enough to declare it legally dead – the playoffs.
While the Pats were knocked out of the 2012 playoffs after a first round war by their infamous highway rivals, the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Pats and their fans are anxious to get back on the hockey horse.
If training camp was any indication, the Pats will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern conference this season, and in years to come.
When the ’96- and ’97-born players hit the ice for the first time at training camp – which ran from Aug 30 to Sept 3 – my immediate thought was, “I feel incredibly old and have done nothing with my life.”
After getting past the initial shock of how incredibly young these players are, I was able to sit back, relax, and truly enjoy the talented future of the Pats.
While it was clear that these young guns were green to the WHL style of play, a few managed to make an impression on everyone in attendance.
Six youngsters were signed to the club post-training camp as goaltender Patrick Gora, defencemen Griffin Mumby and Rob Fulton, as well as forwards Rylee Zimmer, Austin Wagner, and Bryar Ortynskiall all got one step closer toward their goal of playing with the oldest franchise in junior hockey.
Once the rookies stepped off the ice, it was the ’92-’95 players turn to strut their stuff at The Co-operators Centre.
"While every year people will boast that Regina hockey fans have a lot to be excited about, this time, I’m telling the truth."
The competitive level during camp was so high it almost looked like playoff hockey, especially when it came to the 20-year-olds.
I don’t even want to think of how many 20-year-olds they are going to have if there is indeed an NHL lockout, because it would simply be absurd.
In recent years, the Pats have had a habit of trading their 20-year-old goaltenders. Fans will remember just last year when Damian Ketlo was given his shipping papers and sent packing. Or, how about back in 2009 when Linden Rowat was sent on a one-way bus ride to Lethbridge. This leaves Pats fans with one question: Will Matt Hewitt fall victim to the same fate as those before him?
While it would be difficult to see such a talented goaltender leave the squad, the blow would quickly be softened as last years backup, Adam Beukeboom, looked stellar between the pipes at training camp.
Brandon Underwood will undoubtedly be back to anchor the Pats defence again this season, but who will capture the other over-age spots?
Providing Jordan Weal, Martin Marincin and Colton Jobke take the next step in their hockey careers and turn pro this season — Jobke is the biggest question mark to turn pro, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume he does – as of press time that still leaves over-age forwards Lane Sheidl and Andrew Rieder.
Both are forces around the net, but come with very different skill sets. Sheidl put on an offensive clinic at camp and made a strong case for his bid at one of the remaining 20-year-old spots.
And then, to add more fuel to the already blazing fire, there’s Regina product, Rieder. Fans didn’t get a chance to see the right-winger during camp as he is still battling the effects of a lagging injury.
However, Rieder has proven for the last four years that he will go the extra mile if it means earning a win for his teammates.
After all of that taken into consideration, I honestly thank God that I don’t have to be the one to make those tough decisions.
Once the final 23-man roster is set, head coach Pat Conacher and the boys will officially begin work on Sept. 21 when they visit the Brandon Wheat Kings for their first taste of regular season action.
While every year people will boast that Regina hockey fans have a lot to be excited about, this time, I’m telling the truth.