Monday, March 31, 2008

Post mortem on the Pats season

Okay, sorry it took me a couple of days to get to this. Been a little busy with real life, not going ballistic over the exploits of a collection of teenage boys. Man, some of those who've been posting on Rod Pedersen's blog are disturbed individuals. Also, I'm not a big fan of the knee-jerk, "sky is falling" assessments. But here's what I think is largely behind another disappointing early exit from the playoffs for the Regina Pats.

1) Personnel. Simply put, not enough offense. How many players on this year's edition of the Pats had career years..........LAST YEAR? J.D. Watt (34 goals last year/13 this year), Tim Kraus (19/15), Ryan DePape (25/10) and Michael MacAngus (24/18) spring immediately to mind. Add to that some porous defense and erratic goaltending, and it's safe to say the players didn't live up to expectations.

2) Coaching. I honestly believe Curtis Hunt is a top-notch coach. He can only put the players in a position to succeed. The skaters have to follow through on their end of the bargain. Hunt didn't give up any weak goals or shorthanded markers in the playoffs.

3) Heart. Simply put, there wasn't enough of it on this year's squad. Nothing against Logan Pyett specifically, but I yearn for the days when Barret Jackman wore the "C" for the Pats. There was a guy who was not afraid to make teammates accountable, including pinning them against the dressing room wall if need be. Hell, he was doing that sort of thing in his rookie year! I suspect Colten Teubert could be the same sort of leader. We'll find out.

4) Culture. This is the biggie from my perspective. Remember in the mid to late 90's when a stream of players chose not to play here? The franchise hadn't won a lot and the previous ownership was not exactly free-spending in it's approach to creating a professional environment.

Give Pats G.M. Brent Parker some credit. He recognized what needed to be done, and invested a lot of time (and money) into improved training facilities, top-notch equipment, and generally transforming the Pats into a professionally-run organization. And the result? Players now want to come here, seeing Regina as a desirable destination.

But, here's the rub. Are they the right kind of players? I suspect many of the kids we've seen in Pats uniforms in recent years were all too happy to partake of the amenities, the free clothing, stopovers in Banff, etc. But, when push came to shove, how many of those players would be willing to give everything they had to the organization in return? Answer - simply not enough of them.

By trying to make this a more desirable destination, the Pats have been taken advantage of by the "me first" generation of hockey players. The kind that want the team to provide top-of-the-line equipment, while they're still playing midget hockey! That culture of entitlement needs to end.

Clearly, not enough players have responded to being taken care of. It's time for a return to the "either you bust your butt for this team, or there's the door" type of approach. And if the little darlings don't like the change, then I strongly suggest they're not the type of players you want around when the going gets tough anyway. Frankly, it's a privilege to play junior hockey for this franchise. Let's leave the rewards for after the work is done.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Turn out the lights...

The WHL season is over for the Regina Pats. The Pats lost 5-2 in Swift Current tonight, giving the Broncos that Eastern Conference quarterfinal in six games. Want to know everything there is to know about this year's edition of the Pats? They were outshot 18-5 in the first period, and took a 3-0 deficit into the first intermission! Regina cut the deficit to 3-2 in the third period, before the Broncos scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute to launch the celebration at the iplex.

Excuse me, but how in the hell does a team manage to come out that flat when facing elimination? Outshot 18-5? Seriously, if that's the best you can muster, then stay on the bus. Mind you, this year's edition of the Pats found a way to do that (soil the sheets) many times this season. Perhaps that's why they'll be on the outside looking in for the rest of the playoffs.

Are changes in store for next year? They should be. Clearly the status quo isn't getting it done.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pivotal game tonight

The Regina Pats host the Swift Current Broncos tonight in game five of their WHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The teams have split the opening four games, with the last two being decided in overtime - including a 5-4 Broncos win on Wednesday night in Swift Current.

The series has played out largely as expected; a battle between Regina's size and physicality and Swift Current's speed and scoring punch. The wildcard has been the play of Broncos netminder Travis Yonkman. Realistically, the series would be over already if not for Yonkman's heroics. That's not to say Pats netminder Linden Rowat has played badly; Yonkman has just been better.

Pats General Manager Brent Parker has to be feeling vindicated right now. Parker faced some heat for the trades that brought six new faces to the lineup in December/January. But, forwards J.D. Watt and Scott Doucet, and defenceman Victor Bartley have been among Regina's top players in this series - exactly why Parker brought them here. And centre Tim Kraus - save for a bit of a disappearing act in game two - has been solid as well.

I expect the Pats to come out hitting tonight, in front of what hopefully will be a full - and noisy - house. The home team will also receive a lift from the return of assistant captain Brett Leffler, who served a three-game suspension for his hit on Broncos defenceman Michael Wilson on the opening shift in game one.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Time for a party!

First things first today - I want to wish a very, very happy birthday to (not so) young Jacob. Jacob Andrew Paczko turns 9 today! Yep, March 26, 1999 @ 5:31 p.m. at the Regina General Hospital - the moment my life changed forever, for the better! Happy birthday kiddo, can't wait to see you after work! Somebody tell the folks at BP south to have bugs and cheese (not nearly as gross as it sounds) on standby.

Thumbs up to the Regina Pats, who notched a gritty 4-3 overtime victory in Swift Current last night. The Pats now lead that WHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal two games to one. Game four goes tonight in Bronco-ville.

Now, here's the lineup for this week's edition of SportZone on Access 7. The show airs tonight at 6 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m.

SportZone Guests for March 26/08
Community Co-Host: Tim Hubic

1. A Regina football player hopes to hear his name called at the 2008 CFL college draft. Guest: Paul Woldu (U of S defensive back).

2. Regina’s Harvest City Christian Academy celebrates a 2nd straight provincial 1A boy’s high school basketball championship. Guests: Joel Wells (Head Coach), Michael Singer & Garret Peters (Players)

3. Campbell Collegiate celebrates a city championship in 5A girl’s high school basketball. Guests: Amanda Bailey & Megan Chamberlin (Players)

4. A preview of the annual University of Regina Cougar Athletics Fundraising Dinner. Guest: Barry Clarke (Dinner Chairman).

5. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the Regina Capitals Junior B hockey club. Guest: Don Pankewich (Capitals Head Coach/GM).

6. A preview of the 2008 Battle of the Prairies IV boxing event. Guests: Frank Fiacco (Lonsdale Boxing Club President) & Ron Buchmaieyer (Boxer).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Five out of six ain't bad! Is it?

The Regina Pats find themselves tied 1-1 in their first round playoff series with the Swift Current Broncos. The Pats played five very good periods - and one stinker - this weekend. Unfortunately, that one bad period cost the Pats an opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead.

Regina came out flying, and hitting, in game one Friday night. 20-year old forward J.D. Watt put in a terrific performance, and was named the first star of the 2-1 Pats victory.

The next night, the Pats came out strong again and took a 3-2 lead into the third period. That's when the wheels fell off, as the Broncos scored three unanswered goals to take a 5-3 victory and even the series up. Games three and four are Tuesday and Wednesday in Swift Current.

The Broncos hope to have veteran defenceman Michael Wilson back in the lineup Tuesday. Wilson was hammered by the Pats' Brett Leffler on the first shift Friday night, and left the game with a concussion. The league ordered Leffler to sit out Saturday night, even though no penalty was assessed on the play.

On Saturday, Broncos blueliner Jesse Dudas saw his season come to an end when he was taken into the boards hard, and awkwardly, by Pats sniper Jordan Eberle. Dudas suffered a broken wrist, while Eberle was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. Needless to say, it's been a physical series to this point. I can't see that changing when the scene shifts to the iPlex Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SportZone lineup for March 19

Here's the lineup for this week's show, featuring a new addition to the co-host team. The show airs tonight (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. and Thursday at 3 p.m. on Access channel 7.

SportZone Guests for March 19/08
Community Co-Host: Alynn Brischuk

1. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the University of Regina men’s hockey team. Guest: Blaine Sautner (Cougars Head Coach).

2. Balfour Collegiate wrestlers capture gold at provincials, including the 5A boy’s team championship. Guests: Ryan Bellamy (Head Coach), Kirk Ackerman & Jasmine Slinn (Provincial gold medalists).

3. The Regina Speed Skating Club will host the 2009 national long-track championships. Guests: Alexandra Sutter (RSSC President) & Kali Christ (Speed skater).

4. The Leboldus Golden Suns capture the city high school boy’s 5A basketball championship. Guests: Wade Bartlett (Head Coach), Keith Yalowega & Dylan Puscus (Players).

5. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the Regina Pat Canadians midget AAA hockey club. Guests: Bill Gibson (Team Manager) & Derek Tendler (Goaltender).

6. A U of R athlete is named top female athlete at the CIS championships, and her coach is headed to the Olympics! Guests: Carla Nicholls (Cougar track coach) & Janine Polischuk (Cougar track star).

7. The U of R women’s basketball team captures a silver medal at the CIS championships, and aims even higher for next year. Guest: Dave Taylor (Cougars Head Coach).

Eberle and Rowat up for WHL awards

Congratulations to Regina Pats goaltender Linden Rowat, defenceman Logan Pyett and forward Jordan Eberle. All three players were named to the WHL's Eastern Conference first All-Star team today. The other members of the first all-star team are defenceman Karl Alzner (Calgary) and forwards Steve DaSilva (Kootenay) and Tyler Ennis (Medicine Hat).

Rowat and Eberle are also in the running for league awards. Rowat is the Eastern Conference nominee for WHL goaltender of the year, while Eberle is the conference nominee for the scholastic player of the year.

Here's a list of all the Eastern Conference award winners:

WHL Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Brayden Schenn (Saskatoon, SK), Brandon Wheat Kings

WHL Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy
Eastern Conference – Linden Rowat (Cochrane, AB), Regina Pats

WHL Defenceman of the Year, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Karl Alzner (Burnaby, BC), Calgary Hitmen

WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Brad Hornung Trophy
Eastern Conference – Tyler Ennis (Edmonton, AB) Medicine Hat Tigers

WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Trophy
Eastern Conference – Jordan Eberle (Regina, SK) Regina Pats

WHL Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Michael Dyck, Lethbridge Hurricanes

WHL Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Kelly Kisio, Calgary Hitmen

The winners of these awards along with the WHL Player of the Year will be announced at the 2007-08 WHL Awards Luncheon in Calgary on Wednesday, April 30th.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Let the games begin!

The Regina Pats open the WHL playoffs at home to Swift Current Friday night. Games one and two in the series are Friday and Saturday at the Brandt Centre, before the series shifts to speedy creek for games three and four Tuesday and Wednesday. This will not be a cakewalk for the Pats, but I believe Regina will prevail in six games. Here's a look at the other Eastern Conference first-round series, along with my fearless predictions:


SERIES A (Game # - Visitor @ Home; Date) (Calgary in 6)

All Start Times Are Local

#1 – Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Friday, March 21 (7:00pm MST)

#2 – Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Sunday, March 23 (2:00pm MST)

#3 – Calgary @ Moose Jaw; Tuesday, March 25 (7:00pm MST)

#4 – Calgary @ Moose Jaw; Wednesday, March 26 (7:00pm MST)

#5 – Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Friday, March 28 (7:00pm MST) If Necessary

#6 – Calgary @ Moose Jaw; Sunday, March 30 (7:00pm MST) If Necessary

#7 – Moose Jaw @ Calgary; TBD If Necessary

SERIES B (Regina in 6)

#1 – Swift Current @ Regina; Friday, March 21 (7:00pm MST)

#2 – Swift Current @ Regina; Saturday, March 22 (7:00pm MST)

#3 – Regina @ Swift Current; Tuesday, March 25 (7:30pm MST)

#4 – Regina @ Swift Current; Wednesday, March 26 (7:30pm MST)

#5 – Swift Current @ Regina; Friday, March 28 (7:00pm MST) If Necessary

#6 – Regina @ Swift Current; Saturday, March 29 (7:30pm MST) If Necessary

#7 – Swift Current @ Regina; Tuesday, April 1 (7:00pm MST) If Necessary

SERIES C (Brandon in 7)

#1 – Brandon @ Lethbridge; Friday, March 21 (7:00pm MST)

#2 – Brandon @ Lethbridge; Saturday, March 22 (7:00pm MST)

(Rest of series TBD)

SERIES D (Kootenay in 5)

#1 – Kootenay @ Medicine Hat; Friday, March 21 (7:30pm MST)

#2 – Kootenay @ Medicine Hat; Saturday, March 22 (7:30pm MST)

#3 – Medicine Hat @ Kootenay; Tuesday, March 25 (7:00pm MST)

#4 – Medicine Hat @ Kootenay; Wednesday, March 26 (7:00pm MST)

#5 – Kootenay @ Medicine Hat; Friday, March 28 (7:30pm MST) If Necessary

#6 – Medicine Hat @ Kootenay; Sunday, March 30 (6:00pm MST) If Necessary

#7 – Kootenay @ Medicine Hat; Tuesday, April 1 (7:00pm MST) If Necessary

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pats clinch

The Regina Pats have clinched first place in the WHL's East Division, thanks to a 5-4 win in Moose Jaw last night. It's the first division crown for the Pats in exactly ten years. Regina still has a remote chance of catching Calgary for top spot in the conference. The Pats trail the Hitmen by three points, with two games remaining for each team.

I've done an awful job of posting these, but below is my column from this week's edition of the CHL Insider newsletter:

Pats Roar Back to Life on Home Ice

The Regina Pats are firing on all cylinders, after sweeping a just-completed five game home stand. The winning streak erased memories of a six game road trip that saw the Pats only win twice. Since returning to home ice, the confidence level has risen throughout the organization.

Pats 20-year old forward J.D. Watt is accustomed to the pressure-packed atmosphere at this time of year, after playing in two Memorial Cups with the Vancouver Giants. Watt told 620 CKRM radio’s Rod Pedersen what he believes is the key to continued success, and what he sees as his role in an extended (hopefully) playoff run. “Our team identity has to be as a real physical team, and tough to play against. If there’s one thing I can do for these guys, it’s play that way. Leadership isn’t necessarily talking; it’s what you do on the ice and leading by example. If I can go out there and finish every check, play physical and throw pucks on net – then I think a lot of young guys will follow. If our team plays physical, we’ll be tough to beat.”

For an example, the Pats need look no further than their most recent victory, a 4-2 Saturday night win over Prince Albert. Regina (unofficially) out-hit the Raiders 41-17 in that contest. Watt believes that commitment to the less-glamorous on-ice tasks will serve his team well in the long run. “It’s always tough to play that way, but if you want to win games, whatever style you play, to win you have to do things that are hard to do and aren’t fun. The joy of that is afterwards when you’re won. It’s tough to play like that, but it’s fun to win. We know if we do that we can win.”

Watt is one of three 20-year old players the Pats acquired this season to contribute veteran leadership and solid two-way play. He understands the overage trio will be counted on to lead their younger teammates through the battles that lie ahead. “You always look at your 20-year old players this time of year. Tim Kraus has been there with me at the Memorial Cups (with Vancouver) and has been through the wars. He’s a playoff player. And I’m really glad to be on a team with Ryan Bender because he’s a real tough, solid defensive defenceman. It’s our last year and we all want to win real bad. It’s our last chance.”

Regina enters the final three games of the regular season needing just one win to clinch the organization’s first East Division championship since 1998. The pennant–clinching victory could come as early as Wednesday night in Moose Jaw.

"We should be a confident group heading into Moose Jaw," Pats head coach Curtis Hunt opined to the Regina Leader-Post. "It's exciting to come to the rink. It's exciting to follow the other teams and see where you're at. The greatest thing about it is we've maintained that position in the driver's seat. We're in control of our own fate. Let's take advantage of that."

"Ever since the start of the season, one of our goals was to bring a banner to the roof," Pats sniper Jordan Eberle told the Leader-Post. "Now that we can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, it brings motivation and excitement to the whole team. You can't always be perfect, but we just want to come out every game and play our best. The last five games, five wins, that's pretty close to perfect."

Following the game in Moose Jaw, Regina wraps up the regular season with a home-and-home series against the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Pats are at home Friday night, and then conclude the 2007/08 campaign in Brandon Saturday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SportZone lineup for March 12

Here's the lineup for this week's show, airing tonight at 6 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m. on Access channel 7:

SportZone Guests for March 11/08
Community Co-Host: Corey Matthews

1. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the University of Regina wrestling team. Guest: Leo McGee (Cougars Head Coach).

2. The Johnson Wildcats capture the city 4A high school boy’s basketball championship. Guests: Brandon Palmier & Shohruh Noraliev (Players).

3. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the Regina Rebels midget AAA girl’s hockey team. Guests: Doug Folk (Head Coach) & Kendra Finch (Forward).

4. A post-mortem on the 2008 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Regina. Guest: Cathy Trowell (Event Co-Chair).

5. A preview of the 2008 Saskatchewan First Nations Winter Games. Guest: Myke Agecoutay (Winter Games Chairman).

6. A preview of the 2008 Basketball Beat elementary school basketball tournament in Regina. Guests: Michelle Klaver & Kim Markwart (Basketball Beat directors).

7. A preview of the 2008 Baseball Regina season. Get those registrations in! Guest: Hugh McLaughlan (Baseball Regina President)

8. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the University of Regina men’s basketball team. Guest: James Hillis (Head Coach)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We have a winner!

Roughrider offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek is a funny dude, no two ways about it. Maybe someday I'll get a chance to interview him on my show - I think we'd have a bit of fun. He's always good for at least one outrageous quote per interview. As proof, here's the final question from an interview MAM did with Corey Wolfe of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

Wolfe: OK, complete this statement. "If I could occupy the body of a teammate for one game, I would choose --------------."

Abou-Mechrek: (Riders defensive lineman) Scott Schultz, so that I could play with my boobs.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Kerry Joseph dealt to Argos?

That's the rumour making the rounds in CFL circles. Apparently the Riders have dealth the reigning league Most Outstanding Player to Toronto for a package of players. Kudos to the Leader-Post for breaking the story. Details to follow, obviously.

Needless to say the message board crowd is up in arms. Frankly, Joseph's value has never been higher, his play may slip without Kent Austin to mentor him, and his salary demands may be too rich for the Riders' blood. If that's the case, who goes into the '08 season as the starter? Marcus Crandell? A player (please Lord, not Michael Bishop!) coming over from Toronto? Hey, if Kevin Eiben and Jonathan Brown are two of the players coming over (wishful thinking), then maybe it's not so bad!

UPDATE: SportsNet is reporting the players coming over from Toronto are defensive end Ronald Flemons, offensive tackle Glenn January and a 2009 draft pick. The Riders needed a starting DE and OT to replace Fred Perry and Jermese Jones. Verrrrrrrrrry interesting!

Fabulous Favre Tribute

This is an amazing video tribute to Brett Favre, served up by some of the greatest athletes of all time. In case you missed it, Favre announced his retirement from the Green Bay Packers yesterday, after 17 record-setting seasons in the NFL.

Favre retires as the all-time NFL leader in passing yards, touchdowns, wins, consecutive starts and interceptions. The debate is already on as to whether he was the greatest quarterback of all-time. For my money, he's in the top three with Montana and Unitas.

Personally, I'm really gonna miss watching Favre play quarterback for the Packers. I'll still cheer for the Pack every chance I get, but it just won't be the same without #4. He was without a doubt the most exciting/frustrating, exhilarating/bewildering, courageous/reckless athlete I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Thanks for the memories, Brett.

SportZone lineup for Mar 5

Here's the lineup for this week's edition of SportZone, airing tonight (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. and Thursday at 3 p.m. on Access channel 7 in Regina:

SportZone Guests for March 4/08
Community Co-Host: Corey Matthews

1. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the University of Regina women’s hockey team. Guest: Sarah Howald (Cougars Head Coach).

2. An update on the Regina Pats, hoping to capture the WHL East Division pennant. Guest: Ryan Bender (Pats defenceman).

3. The Martin Monarchs capture the city high school mixed curling championship. Guests: Nicole Lang & Erik Ferguson (Curlers).

4. The Usher Unicorns capture the city high school senior boy’s curling championship. Guests: Dylan & Dustin Woloschuk & Cody Schick (Curlers).

5. A post-mortem on the 2007/08 season for the University of Regina women’s volleyball team. Guests: Michelle Zulyniak & Tammy Jule (Players).

And a big congratulations to Corey Matthews and the Scott Blues for capturing the city junior boys (small schools) high school basketball championship. That's the 2nd title (along with a 2nd place finish) for Scott in the past four years - a dynasty!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

This sucks!

Now I really regret not taking my son to a Packers game in Green Bay this past season. Damnit.

Report: Packers' Favre decides to retire Staff
3/4/2008 9:55:17 AM

According to ESPN and FOX Sports, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre has decided to retire after 17 seasons in the NFL. Favre's agent reportedly told ESPN the future Hall of Famer informed Packers head coach Mike McCarthy of his decision on Monday night.

ESPN is reporting the decision was made shortly after free agent wide receiver Randy Moss chose to re-sign with the New England Patriots instead of joining the Packers. But Favre told ESPN the decision was based on the fact he was not prepared to go through the mental wear-and-tear for another season.

Favre leaves the game with a resume fit for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The three-time Most Valuable Player with one Super Bowl title holds the all-time records for wins, passing yards, touchdowns and consecutive games started.

He finished his career with 61,665 passing yards and 442 touchdowns.

Last season, he threw for 4,155 yards with 28 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in one of his best campaigns of his illustrious career. The Packers went 13-3 during the regular season and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in overtime in the NFC championship game.

Last week, the Packers' official website briefly reported he was retiring, but the page under the breaking news section was live for only a few minutes.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pats' Bartley is the player of the week

CALGARY, AB. - The BOSTON PIZZA WHL Player of the Week is defenseman Victor Bartley of the Regina Pats.

Bartley picked up six points, scoring one goal and five assists to go with a +2 rating in three games over the last week, to help the Pats post a 3-0 record in that span.

On Wednesday, February 27th, the Pats welcomed the visiting Kamloops Blazers to the Brandt Centre in Regina. Bartley picked up two assists as the Pats downed the Blazers 3-2. He was also named the game's 2nd star.

On Friday, February 29th, another B.C. Division team rolled into the Brandt Centre as the Pats hosted the Chilliwack Bruins. Bartley contributed three assists to help the Pats defeat the Bruins 5-4.

On, Sunday, March 2nd, the WHL Eastern Conference-leading Calgary Hitmen travelled into Regina to face the Pats. Bartley netted his 10th goal of the season as his Pats picked up a huge 3-1 victory over the Calgary Hitmen.

Bartley, a 20 year old from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, is in his fourth full season of play in the Western Hockey League. His WHL career began with the Kamloops Blazers before joining the Pats in a January trade.