Pats welcome Tigers to Brandt Centre in WHL on Access action


Medicine Hat Tigers (23-16-3-0) at
Regina Pats (21-19-4-0)

Friday, January 12 – Brandt Centre – 7 p.m. (Central)

Channels: Access7 SD, Access 70 HD, WHL Live


Now that the dust has settled on the Western Hockey League’s Trade Deadline, revamped rosters will be debuting new faces to their respective fanbases over the coming days in the push for the playoffs.

That statement rings true for the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup host Regina Pats, who will continue their pursuit of the coveted trophy Friday when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers in WHL on Access action.

The host of fresh faces includes Edmonton Oilers prospect Cameron Hebig, acquired in a deal with the Saskatoon Blades in the early morning of Wednesday’s trade action. Also added were the likes of defenceman Libor Hajek (Tampa Bay Lightning), forward Jesse Gabrielle (Boston Bruins) and goaltender Ryan Kubic.

Surprisingly, players like Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks) and Josh Mahura (Anaheim Ducks) are now no longer among the team’s top three for scoring overall, out-ranked by the likes of Hebig and Jared Legien, who came over in a trade from the Victoria Royals. The addition of Gabrielle and Hajek came in as deals designed to aid the Pats in their run up to May’s tournament.

There’s no doubt the hosting duties have forced the hand of the Pats to make some moves in the lead up to the tournament, but it’ll be at least interesting to see how the club meshes with so many new faces up front. With six, soon to be seven, 30-goal seasons between five of the team’s forwards, the recent roster additions were crafted with the intentions of clashing with the likes of the league-leading Moose Jaw Warriors and also offensively-laden Swift Current Broncos in the playoffs, a fate that seems highly likely at this point.

Whether they go through the East or Central Division in their playoff route, the Pats can provide themselves with an advantage by having a lengthy playoff run. Yes, it may cut down on their time to rest ahead of the year-end tournament, but finding a way to block the path of a team like the Warriors or Broncos from hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup this year could pay more dividends than rest ever could come mid-May.

And as much as the Pats are already 44 games into their season, the meaning to each pass, save, goal, period and game have been subsequently amplified for them; a trend that continues Friday against the Medicine Hat Tigers and will for the remainder of their season.

Taking down the Central Division leaders in the third game of their season series would be a big boost for the Pats. Nevermind that they’re just 10 points behind the Brandon Wheat Kings for third in the East Division, the Tigers represent a sizeable challenge for the Pats.

They’ll face a quality goaltender, regardless of whether Jordan Hollett or Michael Bullion starts at the visitor’s end of the ice. The Tigers, who own the ninth-best power play in the WHL, will provide a steady challenge for the Pats 21st-ranked penalty kill to overcome.

Offensive options like Mark Rassell, David Quenneville (New York Islanders), James Hamblin and Ryan Chyzowski still exist in the Tigers’ lineup who seem motivated to scratch and claw their way to the division title by any means necessary.

A 6-3-1-0 record in their last 10 games have aided the Tigers in taking a 10-point lead in a division that featured several teams selling off assets to the highest bidder at the deadline. Simply put: The Tigers’ competition for their remaining 30 games won’t be a cakewalk, but they’re more than competent at handling their opponents as they stand.

Quenneville is one point away from back-to-back-to-back 50-point seasons and could record back-to-back 20-goal seasons with two more goals. As expected, Ryan Chyzowski has taken a step forward after a promising rookie campaign, sitting fourth on the team in scoring.

Elijah Brown picked up an assist in his debut with the Tigers Wednesday after a trade with the Seattle Thunderbirds and the first-round draft pick from 2015 will have the opportunity to put his best foot forward over the next two months.

Last but not least, Mark Rassell is showing his 36-goal campaign last season was no fluke, notching 34 goals through 42 games. The forward from Calgary, Alta. who hasn’t missed a game since the 2015-16 season, should set new career-highs in goals and points shortly. One stat he doesn’t need to worry about setting a new career-high in is game-winning goals, where he’s already tallied seven game-winners to his combined eight over the previous two seasons.

But the stronger they come, the harder they can fall, a challenge the Pats will hope they can rise to when they take to the ice at the Brandt Centre in WHL on Access action Friday!

Medicine Hat Tigers

Record:  23-16-3-0
Head coach: Shaun Clouston
Leading scorers:  LW Mark Rassell (34-20-54); D David Quenneville (18-31-49); C James Hamblin (13-25-38)
Leading goaltender:  Jordan Hollett (27GP, 14-9-2-0, 3.37 GAA, .898 SV%)
Power play: Ninth – 23.2 per cent
Penalty kill: 15th – 75.8 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: C Mason Shaw (lower body, indefinitely); RW Hayden Ostir (upper body, two months); D Linus Nassen (upper body, 5-to-7 weeks)

Regina Pats

Record: 21-19-4-0
Head coach: John Paddock
Leading scorers: C Cameron Hebig (30-28-58); C Matt Bradley (26-24-50); LW Jared Legien (16-23-39)
Leading goaltender: Ryan Kubic (21 GP, 8-11-2-0, 3.96 GAA, .872 SV%)
Power play: 13th – 21.1 per cent
Penalty kill: 21st – 73.2 per cent
Injuries/Unavailable: RW Emil Oksanen (upper body, day-to-day); G Max Paddock (upper body, day-to-day)

Season Series
Oct. 6 – Regina 2 Medicine Hat 4
Dec. 9 – Medicine Hat 2 Regina 4
Jan. 12 – Medicine Hat at Regina*
Mar. 6 – Regina at Medicine Hat

* Indicates WHL on Access broadcast


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