The Pats are currently riding a five game win streak, their best stretch in two seasons. The team had not won more than three games in a row since they won seven in March of 2018. The team is riding a wave of confidence, they have beaten teams ahead in the standings and they beat Swift Current, who is in last place, twice handily.
The guys who are carrying this team are the ones you expect during the win streak; Austin Pratt (2G, 3A) Carson Denomie (5G, 2A), Riley Krane (3G, 3A) and Robbie Holmes (2G, 6A in 4GP).
Denomie is coming off a hot month of January, where he collected eight goals and eight assists. He has continued that into February adding three goals in the first three games of the month.
The most scrutinized position is always the goaltender. There were a lot of questions marks after the trade of Max Paddock. Donovan Buskey has been able to answer some of them. During the win streak, Buskey has posted a 0.904 save percentage and a 2.49 goals-against average. Buskey came up large in two shootouts versus Saskatoon and Victoria, he stopped a combined five of six shooters to secure the wins for Regina.
The team has recovered from some injuries. Drew Englot returned from a bout of appendicitis, which forced him to miss six games. Since returning, Englot has contributed two goals and an assist in three games.
Zach Wytnick missed three games due to an illness, but has returned and has extended his point scoring streak to six games — currently the longest active streak on the team.
Kyle Walker missed six games with a lower body injury sustained on the U.S. Division road trip. With his return and Wytnick, that has solidified the back end.
The fans got to see the future of the Pats back end with the injuries to the veterans. 2019 first round pick Layton Feist made his WHL debut on the U.S. Division road trip. He was able to play in three games. 2018 picks Marcus Taylor and Parker Berge both made their WHL debuts at home recently. Daylan Weigel, also a 2018 pick, made his debut in Saskatoon last week. He is a product of nearby Warman, Saskatchewan.
Still on the injured list is Makai Mitchell. He was injured in the Everett game on January 12. Mitchell is listed as 7-10 days until return. Jakob Brook, who was acquired in the Max Paddock trade, has yet to suit up in a Pats uniform. His first game with the team will be his 100th in the WHL and that could be getting close as he is listed as 2-3 weeks until return.
One part of the Pats game that has struggled a bit recently has been the power play. The team has scored just six times on 41 opportunities in the past ten games. They are now operating at a 16.9 percent rate which has them 17th in the league.
On the other hand, the penalty kill is keeping steady. They have killed 80 percent of penalties in the past ten games, which is right at their season mark of 79.1 percent. That is good for 11th in the league.
The next ten games may be the most challenging of the season. All the games are against playoff teams — half are at home and half on the road. It begins with a road trip through Alberta to meet three of the top four teams in the very difficult Central Division. They visit Medicine Hat on Tuesday, Calgary on Wednesday and finish in Edmonton on Friday. All games are an 8pm Regina-time puck drop. All three teams are above .500 in their past ten games played.
“Play the same way, come out and play hard. We’re gonna play good teams. We played good teams last week with Saskatoon twice and Victoria. We’re going to see the same thing for for three games. It’s on the road and we won’t get the matchups that we want. We want to play hard, expect everybody to be at that high standard and hopefully have a little bit of success.”
Pats coach Dave Struch on the upcoming road trip
James Hamblin, the 20-year-old Medicine Hat captain leads the team in scoring with 79 points. Regina native Cole Sillinger is fourth on the team with 46 points. Sillinger is second in rookie scoring in the league. Ryan Chyzowski leads the Tigers in power-play goals with 12. The power play is third best at 24.9 percent. The Tigers net minders have split the goal tending duties and have both performed well. Mads Søgaard has a record of 16-11-1-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a 0.899 save percentage. Garin Bjorklund is 17-4-1-0 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a 0.898 save percentage.
The Tigers are coming off an overtime win in Brandon on Friday and then a loss Saturday in Winnipeg.
The Pats lost the only meeting so far against Medicine Hat, a 6-2 defeat on October 4.
The Calgary Hitmen are led by Riley Stotts (55 pts) and Mark Kastelic (26 goals). Calgary has the tenth ranked power play and penalty kill. Defenceman Jett Woo leads the team with 14 power-play assists. Netminder Brayden Peters has taken the reigns as of late. Peters has posted a 12-11-2-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and 0.909 save percentage.
The Hitmen are coming off a three-in-three weekend. It started with a win over Prince Albert on Friday at home. In Red Deer on Saturday they were shut-out by the Rebels. On Sunday, Lethbridge visited and handed the Hitmen a loss.
The Pats are 0-2-1-0 against the Hitmen. The lone point coming in the Prairie Classic OT loss.
The Central Division leading Edmonton Oil Kings are currently in second place overall in the WHL standings. They are led by Riley Sawchuk who has collected 65 points this season. Next is sophomore Jake Neighbours with 57 points. Rookie Dylan Guenther is third on the team with 45 points. Guenther is also third in WHL rookie scoring. Edmonton boasts the top penalty killing unit, operating at a 87.8 percent rate. Their power play is also a respectable 22.7 percent, good for eighth.
Rookie goaltender Sebastian Cossa is having an outstanding year in net. He is second in goals-against average with a 2.09 mark, third with a 0.925 save percentage and his 19 wins are fourth best.
The Oil Kings are coming off a light weekend, just a Friday night match up against the Rebels. Edmonton took the game 2-1 at home.
The Pats are 0-2 against the Oil Kings this season.
“Honestly after the way we’ve been playing, don’t change a thing. Keep sticking to the game plan, pucks will go in. Stay positive, stay focused on the bench, and I think it’ll go our way.”
Drew Englot on carrying the momentum into the road trip
This upcoming road trip will be a barometer on the team, have they taken a step forward, or will they they come back down to earth after facing some stiff competition?