Now that the 2020-21 season is complete it is time to look back at the season.
The end of May is usually time to celebrate the completion of the season and the Memorial Cup tournament. The major junior championship will not be presented for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WHL should be proud of the product that they were able to piece together to put a semblance of a season together. The players were able to get in a season and the fans had a chance to watch their favorite team for up to 24 games.
In the unusual circumstances that were the 2020-21 season, the East Division played in a hub in Regina. Swift Current joined the other Saskatchewan-based clubs as well as Brandon and Winnipeg to create the Subway Hub. The Wheat Kings were the best of the East and won the Subway Cup.
Regina finished fifth in the division with a 9-12-2-1 record finishing 17 points back of Brandon. The Pats scored 76 times for an average of 3.17 goals per game. Defensively, the Pats allowed the second-most goals against in the East Hub with 96 allowing almost a full goal more against per game.
Many aspects needed improvement and in many cases that happened, but with just 24 games in the season it was too little too late. Defensive lapses and miscues plagued the Pats throughout the 24-game season.
Up first in the Pats season-in-review will be goaltending.
Ross, an overage netminder from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan was acquired via trade from the Seattle Thunderbirds in April of 2020. Ross came to the Pats with 74 games of WHL experience with the Thunderbirds, by far the most of any goaltender on the roster. In regular circumstances, he would have been the starter to carry the load for the season.
Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Flyers 2019 sixth-round draft pick did not get off to a great start in a Pat uniform. He allowed five goals or more in five of his first nine appearances. A 4.78 goals-against-average and a 0.841 save percentage through the first nine games were not great.
On April 6th, a switch was flipped, and things turned around for him. The Ross that every Pat fan was expecting broke through. He allowed just 11 goals in his next six appearances and went 4-2 in those games. In those six contests, he put up stellar numbers with a 1.84 GAA and 0.937 save percentage.
Ross got the call for the final game of the season and the ICE took advantage of some lackadaisical play in a 6-4 win over the Pats.
In his lone season with the Pats, Ross ends his career with a 6-8-2-0 record, 3.75 GAA, and 0.874 save percentage.
Welke, an 18-year-old, Yorkton, Saskatchewan product came into the season with the second-most experience between the pipes for the Pats. He had played 121 minutes over two games in the shortened 2019-20 season. He came into the season with a decent 2.98 GAA and 0.905 SV%. With having just 24 games and three goaltenders, Welke was the odd man out so to speak. He managed to get into a pair of contests and although his numbers were not great (5.03 GAA, 0.859 SV%), Welke played well.
Coming into the 2020-21 season with just 29 minutes of WHL action, Kieper played well in his seven games of action. A Pats third-round pick in 2019, the Winnipeg product got into seven games in the Regina Hub. The strongest of the three goaltenders for the season had a 3-2-0-1 record with a 3.59 GAA and 0.893 SV%. The 16-year-old proved to be calm under pressure and gave the Pats a glimpse into the teams’ goaltending future. Kieper all but proved that he will be part of the Pats for a long time.
A quick look at 2021-22
Ross has graduated from the junior ranks. Hopefully, he gets more of a chance to prove his worth for the Flyers organization. He showed signs of being a great goalie.
As Welke and Kieper are the only signed goaltenders the Pats have, they will likely be part of the equation early. With 12 games combined between the two, the Pats may look for a more experienced netminder.