Regina Pats come up short in 5-2 loss to Winnipeg Ice

The Pats fell 5-2 to the Winnipeg Ice on Saturday.

The Winnipeg Ice proved to be too much for the Pats to handle on Saturday when Regina fell 5-2 inside the Queen City’s WHL hub at the Brandt Centre.

Pats forward and exceptional-status rookie Connor Bedard stretched his point-scoring streak to an impressive twelve games. However, the Pats were banged up on the back end and dressed just five defenders in the contest.

Winnipeg’s Skyler Bruce opened the scoring 1:52 into the opening frame, fighting off a check from Pats defenceman Ryker Evans, spinning away from pressure and beating Roddy Ross five-hole to open the scoring. Bruce’s first on the year would be the lone goal. The Ice headed to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead in a fairly evenly matched period. A spark comparison to the 8-3 drubbing the Ice handed the Pats earlier in the shortened WHL East Division season.

“We had lots and lots of great scoring opportunities. Their goalie played great, and again, we need to be near perfect” Dave Struch, Pats head coach said, post-game. “They’ve got anywhere from ten to twelve high end forwards that are really hard to handle,” he said.

Bedard, 15, dazzled in the opening frame with a lacrosse-style attempt. He scooped the puck up on the blade of his stick and tried to wrap it around, over the shoulder of Ice goaltender Daniel Hauser, but was denied.

“He’s done almost everything else! It was a great effort. We thought it was in the goalie's glove! He makes it look easy. It certainly was a good effort and I’m sure it won’t be the last time he tries it.” Struch said.

Kyle Walker took a tripping penalty with 10.6 seconds remaining in the first. Winnipeg took advantage early into the middle stanza, just 26 seconds in, when the feed in front, intended for Connor McClennon took a hop in front, bounced off the knee of McClennon and into the net for his sixth on the campaign.

Roddy Ross looked confident in the Pats’ goal with 36 saves in the loss. Despite being overmatched by a more talented roster, the Pats had their chances. Drew Englot bullied his way in front of the Ice net forcing Hauser to make a great pad save in tight, including the rebound attempt.

With 1:11 left in the second, Jakin Smallwood padded the Ice lead. Peyton Krebs drove in hard from the left-wing, letting a weak shot go into Ross’ pad, the puck came right to Jakin Smallwood’s stick, who fired it past an outstretched goaltender for his ninth.

Hauser finished the afternoon with 36 saves.

“Those are experiences we’ve gotta get through. It is hard. But our players need to, you know, you don’t want to go through it for too long but our players need to learn from [mistakes],” Struch said.

Bedard drew a penalty taking a hit along the right-wing half wall in the third, on Benjamin Zioty leading to the team’s first of the night.

On the ensuing powerplay, it was Ryker Evans, driving toward the goal, up the middle of the ice, kicking the puck free with his back foot right to Logan Nijhoff. The winger fired the puck over Hauser's shoulder to end the Winnipeg shut-out bid. Bedard drew an assist on the goal extending his point streak to an impressive twelve games.

If fans were in the building, they’d likely have felt like things were about to turn around for the Pats. A parade to the penalty box soon followed. Evans received four minutes for high sticking. Nijhoff followed him to the box for hooking. Ross, the goaltender, slashed an Ice forward in front, adding a third infraction called inside a minute, putting the Pats down two for an extended stretch.

Twenty-eight seconds into the lengthy 5-on-3, Conor Geekie added his fourth of the season, gobbling up a juicy rebound from Ross and backhanding it glove-high. Zioty and Smallwood would each draw an assist on the play.

The Pats now hold a 4-6-2-0 record at the midway point of the shortened WHL season.

“I don’t think we’re where we wanna be at all right now,” Kyle Walker, Pats defenceman said. “We definitely want to be .500. We set goals for ourselves, we failed to get our goal today and, not happy about it.”

“There really aren’t enough games, so when you talk about a full season of development, there’s not gonna be the time that you want for our young guys to get over the hump,” Stuch said.

The Pats penalty kill ran at 57.1 per cent efficiency in the afternoon. With Zach Benson in the box, it was the powerplay that got to work for the Pats. Bedard, quarterbacking the powerplay, found Carson Denomie in the left-wing circle who blasted it high over Hauser. There was a small window to shoot at, and Demonie found it for his team-leading eleventh goal.

Late in the game, the Ice put it away with an odd goal on a broken play. Jackson Leppard won the face-off for the Ice, pushing the puck toward the goal. The puck is lost in a sea of five jerseys. The ref and Ice forward Benson are the only ones who see the puck free behind the net. Benson walks out front and gingerly flips it in the open net with a light backhand shot while the dog pile continues on the left post. The goal stood as a powerplay marker.

Bedard will play just a couple more games for the Pats before entering quarantine in preparation for the Under-18 Championships to be played in Texas starting on April 26.

The Pats will be back in action Monday when they take on the Moose Jaw Warriors at 4 p.m.