Courtesy: Western Hockey League
Regina Pats (8-22-0-1) at Swift Current Broncos (5-23-1-1)
Wednesday, December 12 – Innovation Credit Union i-PLex 7:00 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
From top to bottom, the Western Hockey League’s East Division has continued to impress for a second-straight year with competitive races. While the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos aren’t at the same level of firepower and their championship aspirations for this season aren’t as strong as they were last year, there’s still plenty on the line when the two teams meet in Swift Current for WHL on Access action Wednesday night.
After a three-game road trip through Alberta yielded a single point in a shootout loss to the Red Deer Rebels, the Pats will enter Wednesday’s matchup hungry for some success. A 1-8-0-1 stretch has them just five points ahead of the Broncos for last in the division and overall in the league, making a regulation win that much more important for the Pats in their goals for the game.
At 2-7-1-0 in their past 10 games, the Broncos haven’t fared much better as a B.C. Division road trip took its toll on both teams, but it’s brought the Broncos two points closer to overtaking the Pats. The Broncos also didn’t fare well in their recent swing through Alberta, losing both games against the Rebels and Calgary Hitmen, but laid claim to beating the top-ranked Prince Albert Raiders in a shootout last week.
What the difference between the two teams will likely boil down to is the six-game season series. which has featured three victories by the Pats so far , the chance to claim the season series win as early as tonight. Despite the high-profile trade of captain Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry in late November, the leading scorer in the season series, Austin Pratt, remains on the Pats’ roster and will no doubt play a key role in Wednesday’s game. The 19-year-old forward has been held pointless in just three of his past 15 games. In three games against the Broncos this season, Pratt has six points (4G-2A), including a pair of multi-goal efforts and an assist the last time the two teams collided. Jadon Joseph and Ty Kolle have continued to improve with their new club, combining for six points (2G-4A) in their first five games with the Pats. Wednesday’s matchup will serve as an introduction to the Trans-Canada rivalry for the pair.
The Broncos’ scoring-by-committee approach continued to take shape this season with no one player having yet reached the 10-goal or 20-point plateau, though Alec Zawatsky is on the cusp of both. Leading the team in scoring this month is Ethan Regnier, who had a strong performance in the epic win over the Raiders, his hometown team no less. What Regnier represents is what many can expect from the Broncos for coming years. This year’s version of the team has struggled, but it’s also given opportunity to players who played smaller roles with the team in past seasons or weren’t even on the roster. Now that they’ve been given the chance to succeed and learn the hard lessons in a bigger role by head coach Dean Brockman, that’s where the next generation of growth will exist. Do they have the next Glenn Gawdin or Tyler Steenbergen? It’s obviously hard to say at this point, but that journey is just part of the fun.
The same goes for the Pats, who have seen youngsters like Sergei Alkhimov, still just 17-years-old, already play a strong role in contributing offensively. He’s fourth in team-scoring as a rookie near the midway mark of the team’s season.
With both teams rested, we could very likely see a matchup between their top goaltenders in Max Paddock and St. Louis Blues prospect Joel Hofer. Hofer recently overtook Ethan Anders of the Rebels for the most shots faced in the league with 822 saves through 22 games. Paddock isn’t far off either with 645 saves through 25 games, tying him for the 10th-most shots faced in the league.
Stats to take note of:
-The Broncos rank ahead of the Pats in home records, with 10 points earned on home ice, compared to eight for the Pats
-The Pats are tied with the Victoria Royals and Seattle Thunderbirds for road points earned, with nine each.
-Forward Ty Kolle recently played in the 100th game of his WHL career
-Forward Austin Pratt is seven goals away for 50 in his WHL career and seven points away from 100 for his WHL career
-Max Paddock is one win away from his 30th career victory with the Pats, having played in 63 WHL games. The last Pats goaltender to reach 30 career wins with the Pats, Tyler Brown, accomplished the feat in 71 games.
-Forward Jadon Joseph recently played in the 150th game of his WHL career
-Forward Tanner Nagel is four games away from 200 for his WHL career
-Joel Hofer has faced 40 or more shots in 13 games this season, earning all three of his victories in those games
Record: 8-22-0-1 – Fifth in East Division
Head coach: Dave Struch
Leading scorers: RW Austin Pratt (12-15—27), C Jadon Joseph (12-11—23), C Ty Kolle (8-8—16)
Leading goaltender: Max Paddock (25 GP, 6-15-0-1, 3.89 GAA, .881 SV%, 1 SO)
Power play: 18th – 17.2%
Penalty kill: 19th – 71.7%
Injuries/unavailable: F Robbie Holmes (lower body, day-to-day), F Koby Morriseau (upper body, indefinite), D Ryker Evans (lower body, 6-to-8 weeks), D Brady Pouteau (upper body, day-to-day)
Swift Current Broncos
Record: 5-23-1-1 – Sixth in East Division
Head coach: Dean Brockman
Leading scorers: LW Alec Zawatsky (9-9—18), RW Andrew Fyten (6-9—15); RW Ben King (5-10—15)
Leading goaltender: Joel Hofer (22 GP, 3-17-1-1, 4.08 GAA, .901 SV%)
Power play: 22nd – 13.5%
Penalty kill: 18th – 74.2%
Injuries/Unavailable: F Carter Chorney (lower body, one-to-two weeks), F Eric Houk (upper body, 2-to-3 weeks), D Matthew Stanley (upper body, day-to-day)
Oct. 5 – Regina 6 Swift Current 5
Oct. 28 – Swift Current 1 Regina 7
Nov. 10 – Swift Current 0 Regina 2
Dec. 12 – Regina at Swift Current*
Jan. 5 – Regina at Swift Current*
March 13 – Swift Current at Regina*
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast