The Regina Pats have every reason to consider the first half of the Western Hockey League season a resounding success, despite an 18-14-2-2 record that appears fairly average.
The Pats will spend much of the second half at home, having played more road games (23) and fewer home games (13) than any team in the league. They spent most of November on the road, fashioning a 5-3-0-0 record, as their Brandt Centre hosted the Canadian Western Agribition and festivities for the 101st Grey Cup.
Regina became the first Eastern Conference East Division team to post a winning record (3-2-0-0) during its U.S. Division swing, including a 3-2 shootout triumph in Spokane.
The Pats have held up despite recent injuries to captain Kyle Burroughs and top scorers Dyson Stevenson and Morgan Klimchuk, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Calgary Flames last week.
“I really like the character of the group and I like our resiliency,” head coach Malcolm Cameron told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. “But I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet. Once we get into a rhythm at home, I’ll be real interested to see how we’re going to do, because if we can be as tough as we’ve been on the road, I’d like to think we’re going to be even tougher at home.”
Regina (40 points) holds down fifth place in the conference, one point ahead of Brandon and Kootenay. Brandon, which finished in the conference basement last season, is on a 5-1-2-0 streak. Kootenay will host Spokane on Friday and play at the Arena on Saturday.
Two Tiger tales: Medicine Hat’s first half was full of ups and downs, with the down part starting in mid-November.
The Tigers began the season 15-3-3-0 to lead the Eastern Conference, but they’ve dropped to fourth place after losing eight of 14.
Captain Hunter Shinkaruk ignited the Tigers’ strong start when he returned from the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Shinkaruk had four goals and six assists during his first seven games with the Tigers, sparking a 5-1-1-0 mark.
Shinkaruk then missed five games with a hip injury and was limited when he returned.
He had one goal and five assists in 11 games before leaving to join Canada’s world junior team.
Around the league: Brandon Wheat Kings rookie forwards Jesse Gabrielle and Braylon Shmyr leave Thursday for Nova Scotia, where they will play for Team Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Gabrielle will play for Team West and Shmyr for Team Pacific. … When Victoria snapped Edmonton’s nine-game winning streak on Dec. 17, the Royals featured five players from Edmonton or the Edmonton area. That quintet – Brandon Magee, Keegan Kanzig, Jake Kohlhauser, Logan Fisher and Matt Dykstra – all had points during the 5-3 win that allowed Victoria (48 points) to remain tied with Everett for third place in the Western Conference.