Pats' play pleasing fans
Greg Harder, Leader-Post
Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Regina Pats are doing their part to deliver a spectator-friendly product at the Brandt Centre -- and, no, we're not talking about the bikini-clad content in the hot tub.
The Pats are playing some of their most-entertaining hockey in several years while emerging as one of the top offensive teams in the WHL, averaging 3.8 goals per game. That ranks them first in the East Division, second in the Eastern Conference and tied for third in the league (with the Kelowna Rockets).
The Vancouver Giants (4.9) and Calgary Hitmen (3.96) -- the top two teams in the league -- are the only clubs that have scored at a greater clip than the Pats, who sit second in the East Division standings at 14-8-1-3.
Regina Pats' Jordan Weal (centre) has been an exciting part of the team this season.
Troy Fleece, Leader-Post files
The fact that Regina is stretching its legs offensively hasn't gone unnoticed by GM Brent Parker, whose objective is to offer an entertaining product as well as a winning product.
"I want people to come to the rink and enjoy themselves," he said. "Obviously winning is important but, win or lose, they (should) see an entertaining hockey game. We are an entertainment product as a league and I think it's important that we remember that. People like to see goals, people like to see physical play and an exciting brand of hockey."
While noting that Pats' fans have -- for the most part -- been getting their money's worth this season, Parker is quick to give credit where it's due. Regina's lineup includes "an electric young superstar" in Jordan Weal, two NHL first-round picks -- right-winger Jordan Eberle and defenceman Colten Teubert -- as well as a top-flight defensive duo in Matt Delahey and Victor Bartley. Not to be outdone are Brett Leffler and Matt Strueby, who have been breakout offensive performers this season.
"It has been a fun group to deal with," said Parker. "There have been a lot of positives about the way we've played."
The only negative is Regina's inflated goals-against (3.46), ranked 15th out of 22 teams. That's a number the Pats are looking to improve, especially in the wake of their past two home games: A 6-2 loss to the Hitmen and a 5-3 setback versus the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Regina bounced back Saturday with a 2-1 road decision over the Prince Albert Raiders, who were held in the game by goalie Garrett Zemlak despite being outshot 37-23.
"I think a lot of us are having fun," said Eberle, who leads the team with 17 goals (tied for third in the WHL). "I know we like to score goals and I know the fans like that too. We're probably up there for goals-for but we were probably up there for goals-against too. We're trying to work on that. I'm sure for the fans it's exciting to watch a lot of goals but I think we have to try to balance it out."
The last time the Pats were among the WHL's top-scoring teams was the 2005-06 campaign, when head coach Curtis Hunt guided the No. 5 offence in the league (3.3 goals per game). The following two years, Regina's ranking dropped to 10th (3.25) and 13th (3.01), respectively. The slide was mostly attributed to personnel and a greater emphasis on defence.
This season, rookie head coach Dale Derkatch and veteran assistant Terry Perkins are encouraging their players to be more creative. That said, Derkatch also has more firepower at his disposal.
"It's hard to knock the success we had last year winning 44 games and the division," added Parker, whose team plays host to the defending Memorial Cup-champion Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday. "It's just a different means to an end. Dale has really encouraged some of our guys to think more offensively when we get into the offensive zone and don't be afraid to be a little bit creative. Having said that, make sure you look after your own end. That's where offence comes from. It's just two different approaches to hopefully get to the same result."
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Go online to read what Greg Harder writes about the Regina Pats and the WHL on his blog Slap Shots.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008