Pre-season puck

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The Regina Pats and University of Regina Cougars men’s hockey team were in action

What the Puck?!
Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

Nothing says hockey season like the notorious stench of hockey gear. With that said, the WHL’s Regina Pats and University of Regina Cougars men’s hockey team are about to embark on the regular season. 

The Cougars played their first two exhibition games on Sept. 9-10 and the rookies came out ready to make an impression.

On Sept. 9, the Cougars made the trip into hostile territory to take on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Although the Cougars ended up losing 2-1 in overtime against the Huskies, they faired quite well in their first weekend on the ice. Regina came back strong on Night Two of pre-season action and took out the visiting Briercrest College Clippers by an embarrassing margin of 7-1. It’s nice to see the Cougars be on the winning end of such a lopsided score for once.

With an uncanny amount of rookies this season, members of the team may be new to university, but they are definitely not new to the game. Numerous players are coming to the Cougars after multiple seasons spent playing junior A hockey in Saskatchewan. The Cougars also welcome two players from the WHL: Mark Schneider of the Regina Pats and Lucas Gore, who played for the Chilliwack Bruins. Schneider will look to fill in for defenceman Dillon Johnstone, while Gore will likely serve as backup goaltender to A.J. Whiffen.

It is difficult to tell how the Cougars will be this season based solely on pre-season action, as the team sits many of their veteran players during these early games in order for the rookies to have an opportunity to prove themselves. Since the team finished dead last in Canada West at 8-18-2 last season, things can only go up from here. Regina has several more pre-season games to go before its regular season begins on Oct. 7-8 with a pair of road games against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

While the Cougars are hoping to make a run at the playoffs this season, another local hockey team, the Pats, are in the exact same boat.

For once, upon looking at the standings, the Pats aren’t among the bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the Pats currently sit sixth out of a possible 12th. However, fans can’t forget these pre-season games are really just make believe, pretend, and whether a team finishes at the top of the standings or the bottom doesn’t mean a thing.

Leading the Pats in pre-season scoring and sitting 13th overall in WHL scoring is young-gun Jack Rodewald, who currently has five points in four games with the Blue and White.

The Pats are to play two more pre-season games before taking on the Swift Current Broncos for their first game of the 2011-12 regular season. The Broncos will be in town to take on the Pats on Sep. 23, while the Pats will make the trip to Swift Current the very next night to compete the home-and-home series.

With a new coaching staff and a new head scout, the Pats looked to be rebuilding the hockey operations side of things, but most fans assumed that the roster wouldn’t change for at least a few months. Instead, the Pats have decided to deal veteran goaltender Damien Ketlo to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The Pats were practically forced to deal Ketlo, as they had four 20 year olds on their roster – the WHL only allows for three. Ketlo spent the last three years in Regina and in a lot of ways it is a shame that he couldn’t finish off his final season where he began his WHL career. The Pats are now left with Garrett Mitchell, Brandon Davidson and Artem Bidlevskii, all of whom are currently at NHL training camps.

Fans may remember when an identical situation happened with Pats goaltender Linden Rowat in 2009. Rowat, who had also spent all of his previous years with the Pats, was traded to the Hurricanes during his final season in the league.

It was unfortunate to see Rowat leave back in 2009 and it is just as disappointing to see Ketlo being shipped away in exchange for a fith-round pick in the 2012 WHL bantam draft. Fans have enjoyed watching Ketlo since 2008.

It’s times like these when fans have to remember it’s not just a game, it’s a business.

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