Regina's rookies ready for playoffs
Greg Harder, The Leader-Post
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Matt Strueby feels like a rookie all over again.
The 18-year-old centre, who just completed his first regular season in the WHL, is about to embark upon his maiden playoff voyage with the Regina Pats, who oppose the Swift Current Broncos in the first round of the playoffs.
"I'm nervous and excited," offered Strueby, a native of Regina who was the co-MVP in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League last season. "It should be a good series. I'm kind of nervous for it, but it should be fun."
Strueby is one of eight WHL rookies who saw regular duty with the Pats this season. The others are backup goalie Jeff Bosch, 17, forwards Rudolf Cerveny, 18, Garrett Mitchell, 16, and Todd Kennedy, 17, and defencemen Alex Pym, 16, Curtis Kulchar, 17, and Dallas Jackson, 18.
It was quite a debut season for Mitchell, a co-captain with Pym on Team Western's bronze medal-winning team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The Regina product capped the regular season by receiving the Pats' rookie-of-the-year award.
Now he's gearing up for the second season.
"It's something special," said Mitchell. "Not everyone gets this experience. I have some buddies on other teams who are going home already. It's nice to go home and see your family but our main goal coming here is to win a Memorial Cup and so that's what we're looking forward to."
Mitchell, Cerveny and Strueby were the only every-day rookies this season with the Pats, whose veteran lineup wasn't conducive to a lot of fresh blood. The other rookie skaters were part of a rotation which saw them all play at least 30 games.
Strueby began the season as part of that rotation but earned more playing time due to injuries and trades, eventually earning a full-time job. He ended up playing more games (65) than any Pats' rookie, finishing with seven goals and 10 assists.
Strueby, who plays between Mitchell and Kennedy of the fourth line, concluded the regular season with a flourish when he scored a game-winning goal and a game-tying marker in two of Regina's last three games.
"I've been trying to do all the little things right and it's starting to pay off for me," said Strueby, who admitted that he and the rest of the team have been in playoff mode for several weeks. "It kind of gives you a preview of what you're going to see in the playoffs because we've had to almost win-out to win the division."
Mitchell and Strueby, who were teammates last season with the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians, were both part of Regina's roster during last season's playoff series against Swift Current. Although they didn't get into a game, they did receive valuable experience.
"We got to see what it was like in a playoff atmosphere," said Mitchell. "It's a different style of game. All your guys have to raise their level. Going into it, we kind of know what we need to do. It's going to be an exciting time for our team. I think we have a chance to do some damage on this run."
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008