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Leader-Post: Regina Pats fall to Tri-City Americans with a 6-4 loss

By Greg Harder | Regina Leader-Post

REGINA — When it rains on the Regina Pats, it pours.

The struggling WHL club continued to give up goals in bunches on Friday night, surrendering four second-period markers in a little over seven minutes en route to a 6-4 loss to the Tri-City Americans before a paid attendance of 4,031 at the Brandt Centre.

It was the fourth straight setback for the defensively challenged Pats (1-5-1), who’ve given up a league-worst average of 5.1 goals per game.

“It’s kind of a struggle right now,” lamented defenceman Brandon Davidson. “Maybe just for an instant we lose sight of our goal. We lose our game strategy just for a few seconds and it ends up in the back of our net. It’s that focus we’re trying to keep consistently. It’s just not going our way right now.”

In search of a spark, the Pats turned to third-string netminder Matt Hewitt for his first WHL start. The gamble initially paid off as the home team jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Davidson (power play) and Jordan Weal (short-handed).

Unfortunately, Hewitt’s bubble burst in the second period when Jordan Messier and Connor Rankin scored just 33 seconds apart to tie it up, followed by another goal from Messier just 3:40 later.

The onslaught continued with Zach McPhee’s first WHL marker, extending the lead to 4-2 after 40 minutes. Justin Feser made it a three-goal deficit with a weak goal just 54 seconds into the third period, essentially turning out the lights on the home team.

Tyler Schmidt added the visitors’ other goal, sandwiched between third-period markers by Regina’s Garrett Mitchell and Carter Ashton.

“We have to work through this,” said Pats head coach Curtis Hunt, whose team was outshot 34-24. “You score enough to win, put in a young goaltender who I thought was spectacular in the first and after that didn’t get a whole lot of help. I thought we really played the kind of game we needed to play again in the first period. Then we cut corners. That’s the frustrating thing. We saw that against Edmonton (a 7-3 loss) when we went to sleep in the second period. We saw it tonight, went to sleep again after a little bit of success. We revert back. We’ve got to work through that mentality.”

In other words, the defence can’t rest.

“It takes six people to play defence,” noted Hunt. “Yeah, you could cite some of those goals strictly as defencemen, no question about it. But you can also say there’s three of them that we didn’t get any help back there. You take three out of the mix with good support and you win a hockey game.

“It’s not the kids,” he added. “It’s veteran guys who have NHL camp experience. Those are the guys who are killing us. Yeah, we have some youthful D but when you have young D you have to work that much harder as a group to support that group.”

Davidson believes the Pats have it within them to turn it around.

“Some guys are just trying to do too much just because we haven’t been winning games,” he said. “Guys are taking it upon themselves to step up their game and sometimes that’s not always good when you go the wrong direction and try to do everything yourself. This is a team game. If the Regina pats are going to win hockey games it has to be as a team.”

EXTRAS: The Pats made three trades on Friday. First, they sent RW Killian Hutt, 19, to the Swift Current Broncos for a sixth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. Following Friday’s game, they shipped LW Hampus Gustafsson, 19, to the Brandon Wheat Kings for a sixth-rounder. Then, they flipped the pick from the Hutt deal back to Swift Current for import RW Juraj Roznik, 18 . . . Prior to the game, the Pats held a special ceremony to honour “builders” Del Wilson, Gord Staseson and Al Ritchie, whose names now adorn a new banner hanging from the rafters . . . The Americans were without leading scorer Brendan Shinnimin, who received an indefinite suspension for a hit from behind Wednesday night on Josh Nicholls of the Saskatoon Blades . . . The Pats are to conclude a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Kootenay Ice.

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