View Full Version : Vets focused on playoff run

03-24-2006, 12:59 PM
from reginapats.com via LeaderPost

Vets focused on playoff run

Greg Harder, The Leader-Post
Published: Friday, March 24, 2006

Denis Tolpeko and Matt Robinson -- 20-year-old linemates with the Regina Pats -- don't look anything like senior citizens.

By WHL standards, they're almost over the hill.

"It is coming to the end now, but I try not to think about it," Robinson said with a smile. "We all want to keep playing as long as we can. I want to try and make a run for it in the playoffs -- just stay focused and think about the team."

That's easier said than done.

Like it or not, Robinson and Tolpeko will officially be put out to pasture at the conclusion of Regina's playoff excursion, which begins tonight against the host Saskatoon Blades.

Both players have been instrumental in the team's turnaround this season -- and they know time is running out.

"It goes pretty quick," reflected Tolpeko, who's in his third and final season as a WHL player. "It's my last year but I can't be thinking about it being over soon. I'm excited for the playoffs."

Robinson and Tolpeko are experiencing the same inevitable sense of urgency experienced by every overage player in the WHL.

Tolpeko got a late start to the campaign, joining Regina at the six-game mark after being acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Russian sniper also missed 14 games with a leg injury, but still finished with 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points in 53 games.

"I only played 50 games; I'm not tired," he said with a smile. "I just want to bring my best and help the team (in the playoffs). It'll be a different game than the (regular) season."

For Robinson, his junior career is ending just as it's gaining momentum. The B.C. native didn't join the WHL ranks until last season, when he was picked up by the Vancouver Giants from the junior A level.

Robinson was traded to Regina last summer in the Dustin Slade deal -- and he hasn't looked back.

"Last year was more of a try-and-get-comfortable kind of thing coming into the league," he said. "This year I've kind of had a breakout year. I do feel like I'm leaving when I'm just getting started. Definitely it's sad to go but hopefully I make it somewhere else next year."

Robinson admits to being somewhat overwhelmed by his time with the Pats, who gave him the opportunity to prove himself at the WHL level. He look care of the rest, becoming one of the team's most reliable offensive producers with 35 goals and 57 points in 69 games.

"I loved it," said Robinson, who also led the team in short-handed goals (six) and game-winners (eight). "Right off the bat (head coach Curtis Hunt) gave me a good opportunity to get in there and be one of the main guys.

"I had a good start and then had a bit of a slump. I wasn't really impressed with how I was doing because I knew I could give more. After Christmas I regrouped and told myself what I needed to do and started playing how I can play.

"I'm pretty happy with my season."