Pats not looking beyond Wheat Kings
By Greg Harder, Leader-Post
March 16, 2012
The Regina Pats have figured out how to simplify a rather complex equation.
Instead of racking their brains on the numerous playoff scenarios that could play out heading into the final weekend of the WHL regular season, the Pats are going to save themselves an unnecessary headache by simply placing their focus where it belongs - on the Brandon Wheat Kings.
"All we can do is control our own fate and go out there and put in a 60-minute effort," offered Pats defenceman Colton Jobke, whose team wraps up the schedule with a home-and-home set versus the Wheat Kings - tonight in Regina and Saturday in Brandon. "We can't worry about what other teams are going to do, win or lose. We're worrying about taking care of business on Friday/Saturday. Going into the playoffs with a couple wins would be huge for us but who we play I don't think really concerns us at this point."
The Pats and Wheat Kings, both of whom are playoff bound, still have a chance to finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the Eastern Conference. Regina currently sits fifth, one point up on both the Saskatoon Blades and Kootenay Ice, and three ahead of Brandon.
That's where things get complicated.
If the Pats win tonight, they'll lock up at least seventh place (which would mean facing the Moose Jaw Warriors). They'd also remain in contention to finish as high as fifth (facing either the Medicine Hat Tigers or Calgary Hitmen).
The Wheat Kings, meanwhile, need to sweep Regina (winning at least one of the games in regulation) to finish ahead of the Pats and thus avoid a first-round matchup with the front-running Edmonton Oil Kings.
"No matter where we finish it's more important to enter the playoffs on a hot streak and knowing you're doing things right; that way it doesn't matter who you play, you have a good chance of winning," said Pats defenceman Artem Bidlevskii, who insisted the Pats won't set their sights on a specific first-round matchup. "We have enough pride in the room that we won't do that. We want to win every game and finish in the highest spot we can. That's the pride level of our team and the compete level. It shows the integrity of the guys in the room."
The fact that the Pats are in position to talk about having a say in their first-round opponent is indicative of a unique battle in the Eastern Conference. Only the top two seeds have been locked up - by the Oil Kings and Warriors, respectively - while each of the remaining six positions is still up in the air.
"It's great for the game, it's great for the fans, it's great for everyone," said Pats head coach Pat Conacher, who believes his team will benefit from this weekend's matchup against the Wheat Kings, regardless of how the standings end up. "They're a big rival, they're a very good hockey team. They're a tough team to play against. They're similar to any of the teams we're going to meet. For us it's a great battle and we have to go in with that (playoff) mindset."
It shouldn't be too difficult for the Pats to drum up the necessary enthusiasm for their final two games. After all, the second season is right around the corner.
"It's the most exciting time of year," added Jobke, who has previous playoff experience with the Kelowna Rockets. "This is what you train for in the summer. This is what you live for. I'm really excited for it and I know the rest of the guys are as well."
BRANDON (37-28-1-4) at REGINA (37-25-6-2)
Today, 7 p.m., Brandt Centre
Radio: 620 CKRM
Key injuries: REGINA - RW Andrew Rieder (shoulder, day-to-day). BRANDON - D Rene Hunter (undisclosed, day-to-day); C Kevin Sundher (concussion, day-to-day).
Overview: Tonight's contest is the final home game of the regular season for the Pats, who wrap up their schedule on Saturday in Brandon. The home-and-home set will determine where the Pats and Wheat Kings finish in the Eastern Conference standings as well as who they'll meet in the first round of the playoffs . . . Regina is currently in fifth place, one point ahead of the Saskatoon Blades and Kootenay Ice. Brandon sits three points back of Regina . . . The Wheat Kings have won four of six games against Regina this season, including one in overtime and another in a shootout . . . Pats C Jordan Weal (41-75-116, 68 GP) is battling Brandon's Mark Stone (39-78-117, 64 GP) for second place in the WHL scoring race. Tri-City's Brendan Shinnimin (58-73-131, 67 GP) is running away with the title . . . Weal has one goal and six assists in six games this season against the Wheat Kings, who have held him off the scoresheet three times. Lane Scheidl has a team-high four goals . . . Stone has been limited to seven assists (four of which came in one night) and one shootout winner in five contests versus the Pats. Michael Ferland, who's also among the WHL's top 10 scorers (45-49-94, 66 GP), has torched Regina for six goals and four assists in six games . . . Pats G Matt Hewitt is 1-1-1-1 with a 2.32 GAA, .921 save percentage and one shutout against Brandon this season. Wheat Kings G Corbin Boes is 3-2-0 with a 2.39 GAA and a .927 SP versus Regina . . . Brandon is tied for second in the conference with an average of 3.8 goals per game and sits ninth in goals-against (3.6). The Pats are seventh in goals-for (3.2) and fourth in goals-against (2.9) . . . Brandon is the least-penalized team in the WHL (14.3 minutes per game). Regina is 16th (15.6) . . . The Wheat Kings are ranked third on the power play (26.2%) and 19th on the kill (76.5%). The Pats are 12th on the PP (20.9%) and 12th on the PK (78.2%) . . . Regina's annual player awards are to be handed out tonight . . . Pats playoff tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.
- Greg Harder
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