Saturday, 3 November 2018

Pats’ top line too much for Blades to handle

Pats captain Jake Leschyshyn tries to beat Blades goalie Dorrin Luding.
    REGINA, Sask. – Don’t tell the Regina Pats top line that this season is supposed to be a write off.
    Regina’s first line of captain Jake Leschyshyn, left-winger Nick Henry and right-winger Austin Pratt combined for five goals and three assists to help the Pats outgun the visiting Saskatoon Blades 6-5 in a WHL regular season tilt before 5,600 spectators at the Brandt Centre on Saturday night.
    That trio didn’t seem to care the Pats are stuck in a rebuilding campaign following a season where the club hosted the Memorial Cup and on the heels of the 2016-17 campaign that saw the team finished first overall in the WHL regular season standings and advanced to the league championship series falling to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Captain Jake Leschyshyn had two goals and an assist for the Pats.
    The Pats are devoid of the stars that helped them through those two special seasons outside of Leschyshyn, who has signed a NHL entry-level contract with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and Henry, who is an NHL Entry Draft selection of the Colorado Avalanche.
    Both have spent their entire WHL playing careers with the Pats. Leschyshyn became a full-time member of the world’s oldest major junior franchise in 2015-16 campaign and Henry came on board during the 2016-17 season. They each had a pair of goals and an assist in Saturday’s win.
    It was obvious to see both have a lot emotionally invested in the Regina team with the effort they gave in Saturday’s wild 1980s style high-scoring contest, which saw the starting goalies for both squads get chased from the game.
LW Nick Henry (#21) had two goals and an assist for the Pats.
    Pratt is known for his gritty work ethic, and he has no quit now in his second campaign with the Pats having come over in a trade with the Red Deer Rebels last season. The Lakeville, Minn., product had a goal and an assist to help the Regina cause on Saturday.
    As a unit, they give the Pats enough to potentially play the role of spoiler on any given night. They did just that helping the Pats improve to 5-12 while the Blades fell to 10-7-2.
    The Blades struck first at the 3:12 mark of the opening frame with a power-play goal coming from overage right-winger Max Gerlach, who would score twice on the night.
Austin Pratt had a goal and an assist for the Pats.
    The Pats proceeded to take leads of 3-1 and 4-2 before the Blades scored three straight to go into the second intermission up 5-4. Blades captain Chase Wouters supplied the go-ahead goal on the power play burying a nice set up pass from star 17-year-old centre Kirby Dach, who had three assists in the setback.
    That set the moment for the Pats top line to take centre stage with some third period heroics.
    At the 9:03 mark of the third, Pats overage defenceman Aaron Hyman, who had three assists in the win, hit Henry with a breakout pass into the Saskatoon zone. Blazing down the left wing, Henry slipped a pass across the face of the Saskatoon goal to Leschyshyn, who buried a marker that forced a 5-5 tie.
    With 4:12 remaining in the third, Henry labeled a shot to the top left corner of the Saskatoon goal on the power play to provide the winning tally for the Pats.
    The Blades were 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Pats scored on both their chances with the man advantage.
Kirby Dach backed the Blades offence with three assists.
    Tristen Robins and Seth Bafaro each had singles for the Blades. Duncan Pierce had the lone tally that didn’t come from the Pats top line.
    Nolan Maier turned away 5-of-8 shots starting in goal for the Blades before being pulled 31 seconds into the second after the Pats went ahead 3-1. Dorrin Luding stopped 14-of-17 shots in relief and took the loss in goal for Saskatoon.
    Max Paddock turned away 21-of-26 shots playing the first 40 minutes of Saturday’s affair in goal for the Pats. Dean McNabb took over at the start of the third period and turned away all six shots he faced to pick up the win in goal for Regina.
    The Pats return to action this coming Friday, when they host the Tri-City Americans at 7 p.m. at the Brandt Centre. The Blades next game is also this coming Friday, when they travel to Medicine Hat to face the Tigers.
    While the Pats are in a reloading stage, Leschyshyn, Henry and Pratt showed how much of a factor heart can play in the outcome of a WHL game and provided a tough lesson for the Blades to learn in the process.
The Pats celebrate their victory on Saturday night.
    The Blades are now 3-5-2 in their last 10 outings after starting hot out of the gate with a 7-2 mark in their first nine contests. Saskatoon has hit a lull where the newness of the WHL schedule ends and the 68-game regular season becomes more of a grind.
    Going forward, the players on the Blades need to try and match the level of emotional attachment to their team like Leschyshyn, Henry and Pratt have for the Pats.

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