Pats, ICE continue season series in WHL on Access action
Kootenay ICE (7-7-1-0) at Regina Pats (9-6-2-0)
Wednesday, November 1 – Brandt Centre 7 p.m. (Central)
Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live
Two teams in similar, yet different positions will meet Wednesday at the Brandt Centre in WHL on Access action when the Regina Pats host the Kootenay ICE for the second of four meetings between the clubs this season.
Both teams will enter the month of November holding onto third place in their respective divisions, two points out of first place, but there’s a different feeling behind both teams for good reason.
The Pats have more than made up for their slow start, going 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 games. In the East Division and Conference as a whole, that will only take you so far though, with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos still engaged in a see-saw battle for the division lead. There’s no question that the Pats have worked themselves into that conversation in recent weeks though.
A recent four-game road trip through the Central Division produced wins over Kootenay and the Edmonton Oil Kings, but featured losses to the Lethbridge Hurricanes and an overtime decision to the Red Deer Rebels. From one side, it was a plus for them to score wins against teams below them in the standings, but dropping decisions to two of the top teams in the Central are three missed points that could have them on top of the division by now.
For the Kootenay ICE, there were fair questions at the beginning of the season regarding different aspects of the team’s roster. Bringing in two new goaltenders in Kurtis Chapman and Bailey Brkin while making a slew of other trades had many not able to pinpoint where the ICE might end up. Approaching the end of their first quarter of the season, the ICE have impressed so far, earning points in three of four games on a recent home stand.
The lone loss during that stretch did come against the Pats though, meaning Wednesday’s matchup will serve as a quick opportunity for the Cranbrook, B.C.-based team to exact some revenge against a tough Eastern Conference opponent. They may also be catching the Pats at a bad time with injuries as well. While the ICE are missing the likes of Jeff de Wit and Loeden Schaufler, the Pats could be without 2016-17 WHL Player of the Year Sam Steel in addition to the already-expected absences of wingers Nick Henry and Austin Wagner.
Henry’s status has been upgraded to day-to-day, suggesting he could be closer to returning to the lineup, which would be a big addition for a Pats club on the rise. His 81 points (35G-46A) in 72 games last season made him attractive enough to be taken in the fourth round of last summer’s 2017 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. He may still miss Wednesday’s contest, but with his return imminent, the entire Eastern Conference could be put on notice shortly.
Wednesday’s matchup will also see both teams working to improve their play on special teams. The Pats have the fifth-best power play (28.0 per cent) overall and the sixth-best man-advantage (27.9 per cent) on home ice. While those numbers are by no means bad on a league-wide perspective, it is a personal dip for the Pats, who were operating above 30 per cent with the extra man last season.
If anything, head coach John Paddock may be hoping his team spends some time in the penalty box to work on their 20th-ranked penalty kill. The Pats weren’t the best team while short a man last year, but still killed more than 80 per cent of the penalties assessed to them. Simply put, their current figure of 69.4 per cent won’t cut now or in March.
Another chance to operate a man-advantage against the Pats may be exactly while the doctor ordered for the ICE though, with the team in a similar position. Just like the Pats, an early-season dip may end up correcting itself by the end of the season, but being ranked 20th isn’t ideal and is likely a top priority for the ICE in the present moment.
It all builds into what should be an entertaining matchup Wednesday at the Brandt Centre in another WHL on Access broadcast!
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE) November 1, 2017
Head coach: James Patrick
Leading scorers: C Colton Kroeker (7-10-17); LW Peyton Krebs* (3-10-13); RW Alec Baer (4-7-11)
Leading goaltender: Kurtis Chapman (8GP, 4-3-0-0, 3.54 GAA, 0.884 SV%)
Power play: 20th – 15.4 per cent
Penalty kill: 15th – 76.9 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: C Jeff de Wit (lower-body, 1-to-2 weeks); D Loeden Schaufler (upper-body, four weeks)
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) November 1, 2017
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Matt Bradley (13-11-24); RW Emil Oksanen* (10-10-20); C Sam Steel (4-13-17)
Leading goaltender: Tyler Brown (13 GP, 7-3-2-0, 2.75 GAA, .898 SV%)
Power play: Fifth – 28.0 per cent
Penalty kill: 20th – 69.4 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: C Sam Steel (upper-body, day-to-day); RW Nick Henry (upper-body, day-to-day); LW Austin Wagner (upper-body, week-to-week)
Oct. 24 – Regina 6 at Kootenay 3
Nov. 1 – Kootenay at Regina*
Feb. 9 – Kootenay at Regina
March 9 – Regina at Kootenay
* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast.