View Full Version : Pats preparing to take next step

03-24-2006, 01:01 PM
from reginapats.com via LeaderPost

Pats preparing to take next step

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

Somewhere in the transition from pretender to contender, the Regina Pats forgot what it meant to act their age.

Now it's time for another grown spurt.

"I'll be the first to admit that I forget how young they are from time to time," offered Pats head coach Curtis Hunt, who leads the greenest playoff lineup in the WHL into a first-round series against the Saskatoon Blades.

"I think (Regina's youngsters) have had to grow up a lot faster than what has maybe been fair. They've gone through their spurts of adversity but I think they've handled it extremely well."

Now comes the ultimate stress test.

When the Pats hit the ice tonight for Game 1 at the Credit Union Centre, their lineup will average out at 17.7 years of age compared to 18.4 for the Blades.

An even greater disparity exists in playoff experience, where Saskatoon's players have 157 total postseason games under their belts. The visitors counter with just 66.

More than half of the Regina's players (12 of 20) will be making their WHL playoff debut.

"That's why the pressure is on Saskatoon and not on us," said Hunt. "We're just a bunch of kids. We just need to go out and have some fun, enjoy the experience and play our game."

Although Regina will continue to lean heavily on its veteran forwards, a considerable burden will fall upon the team's young guns on defence.

It has already been a season-long trial by fire for rookie Nick Ross and sophomores Logan Pyett and Craig Schira. Their playoff initiation won't be any easier against the Blades, who boast one of the most explosive lineups in the WHL.

"In the end, it's the same game," Hunt said when asked about his team's lack of playoff experience. "The first game is going to be nerve-wracking to some extent but the great thing about this series is it's right back at 'er. That's when we've played our best recently (because) you don't have time to worry about all those things.

"The finish we had (winning seven of eight road games) was tremendous that way because we've had to deal with distractions and accept the fact that that's really all they are. It doesn't change the game. All the hoopla and media and all that stuff, that's fine. We just need to play."

If you read between the lines, the Pats' belief in their playoffs prospects boils down to an undeniable fact -- they don't know any better.

Saskatoon, on the other hand, has the benefit of old wounds, having been bullied from the first round last year by the Prince Albert Raiders.

That series exposed deficiencies in the Blades' lineup which they believe have been filled with the acquisition of several battle-tested veterans. Among those key additions were defencemen Derek Price and Brad Cole, both of whom advanced the third round last season with the Kootenay Ice.

"Until you go through the experience of playing in the playoffs you don't really know what it's all about," said head coach/GM Lorne Molleken. "Our core group from last year's team learned a very valuable lesson in what it's going to take to succeed. Some of the players we've traded for have played on winning teams that had success in the playoffs. We're counting on our experiences to help us through a long tough series."