REGINA – Over-age forward and Edmonton Oilers prospect Cameron Hebig calls the last month and a half “hard.”
Coach and GM John Paddock chooses a different word: “disappointing.” Veteran defenceman Josh Mahura opts for “tough.”
Any way you slice it, a first-round exit for the Memorial Cup-hosting Regina Pats wasn’t the way they drew it up.
But they believe they’ve put their time away from game action to good use – and are prepared to make amends for their underwhelming playoff showing.
“The wait is finally over,” Hebig said.
“We’re ready to play,” added centre Jake Leschyshyn, a Vegas Golden Knights prospect. “It’s been awhile.”
The Pats, the WHL’s seventh-best team in the regular season, drew a tough first-round opponent in No. 2 Swift Current. Although they pushed the Broncos to seven games, they fell to the eventual 2017-18 champs 3-2 in the decisive contest.
That was April 2. By the time the Pats open the tournament Friday against the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, they’ll have been stewing for 45 days.
“There were definitely days where I hated it a bit,” Leschyshyn said. “Looking back now, it’s really rewarding to get to play here and be in the best shape possible.”
The Pats coaches and players have been able to either draw from their own experiences or seek council from others who’ve endured early exits as tournament host.
Leschyshyn spoke to his father, Curtis, the longtime NHL defenceman, right after the Pats were eliminated. Curtis was an assistant coach with the Saskatoon Blades when they were swept out of the WHL playoffs in 2013.
Mahura was a WHL rookie when the 2015-16 Red Deer Rebels were eliminated in the third round of the WHL playoffs in 2016.
Hebig, acquired from Saskatoon at trade deadline, joined the Blades the season following their hosting campaign. He’s chatted with former teammate Ryan Graham to get some …read more