View Full Version : Pats arent satisfied just yet

03-08-2006, 03:17 PM
from reginapats.com

Pats aren't satisfied just yet

Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
Published: Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Regina Pats could suddenly reprise their ineptitude of last winter and, in one respect, it would not matter.

This season already qualifies as a success story for Regina's WHL team. Anything else is a bonus.

It must be emphasized that the Pats do not subscribe to this mentality. Head coach Curtis Hunt and his charges are far from satisfied as the playoffs loom.

That said, the 2005-06 Pats could fail to win another game and any reasonable assessment of their play would still be laudatory.

The Pats guaranteed themselves a winning record by posting a 4-3 victory over the East Division-leading Moose Jaw Warriors on Sunday at the Crushed Can. That conquest gave Regina a 34-26-1-4 record with seven regular-season games -- all on the road -- remaining.

Regina is on the verge of tripling its victory total of last season, when it was a league-worst 12-50-4-6. Given the team's abundant youth, this grizzled observer of major-junior hockey envisioned 20 victories, tops.

"Obviously, projections didn't pick us to have a lot of success,'' Hunt said.

"We always believed that we'd make strides. We started the year wanting to be competitive and wanting to get in the playoffs. I think we've accomplished that first goal. Now the next goal becomes getting to the next level. In the business of sports and being an athlete, you just don't have time to sit back and pat yourself on the back.''

The commendation is warranted, but Hunt would prefer to accept it in May.

"Have we recognized the fact that we've secured a postseason berth? Yes, we have,'' he said. "Have we told our guys that's a good accomplishment? Yes, we have.

"At the same time, we've also told our guys that the work's not done. Take a minute. Reflect on it. Understand it. Be proud of that. But let's go to the next level and take care of the next challenge. That's road consistency and road success, followed by what we think will be a great series with Saskatoon, and one we feel we can have success in.''

Regardless of what transpires over the next seven games, the Pats will meet the Saskatoon Blades in a first-round playoff series. Saskatoon is second in the East with a 40-25-1-1 record and 82 points -- nine more than the Pats.

Any realistic chance the Pats had of leapfrogging Saskatoon and opening the playoffs at home vanished on Friday, when Regina lost 6-4 to the Blades at the Brandt Centre. Regina trailed 6-1 before scoring three meaningless goals late in the third period.

Regina rebounded with a remarkably impressive start against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors. The Pats assumed leads of 2-0 and 4-1 before surrendering the game's final four goals.

End of home schedule.

At that point, an incurable skeptic wondered whether the Pats were spent. That notion was dispelled by Sunday's victorious effort in Moose Jaw.

The Pats hope that conquest will generate momentum for the final seven games, the first of which is tonight's clash with the Swift Current Broncos.

Regina enters that game with a 9-19-0-1 record, which pales in comparison to a 25-7-1-3 home slate. However, Sunday's game demonstrates that the Pats can prevail in hostile territory.

It's part of a growing process where it's, 'Oh, OK. We can do this,' " Hunt said.

"It's a belief thing.''

Hunt has instilled that mindset.

"Our guys understand we can play with those teams,'' said Hunt, whose team has been bumped from the Brandt Centre by the Brier. "We can score against these teams. We can shut these teams down. Now, let's focus on our game. Let's focus on each other. Let's focus on our details. Let's focus on fine-tuning things and expanding our repertoire, so to speak, and giving teams a different look.

"We get out of town. We spend our time together. Nothing is more important now than the group. There's nowhere to run. You have to be accountable because you spend so much time together. I think the timing (of the road swing) is very good in that regard. Now, we might be singing a different tune after these seven games are over . . .''

But don't bet against them. The 2005-06 Pats tend to prove people wrong. Take it from someone who knows.