After not having played a game since April 2, the Regina Pats will get back on the ice Friday night to open up the Mastercard Memorial Cup against the Ontario Hockey League champion Hamilton Bulldogs.
Veteran Pats defenceman Josh Mahura told the SportsCage that the worst is behind them, and they're eager to get back onto the ice for real.
"Obviously it was a long time off (46 days since losing in Round 1)," explained Mahura. "There were a lot of aspects of on- and off-ice stuff during that time. The coaches changed it up so we weren't always doing the same things. But I think basically we put in the same amount of work we would of had we been playing all along. I think we maintained our abilities and got better as a team. The key is we recovered physically."
The Pats played a small series of exhibition games against alumni and other area junior/pro players behind the closed doors of the Brandt Centre to simulate game conditions. Mahura said it wasn't hard to manufacture intensity.
"It was there because we wanted to push ourselves and wanted to give ourselves the best chance to win this week," said the Anaheim Ducks 3rd round pick. "You hesitated a bit because you didn't want to hurt each other, but we desperately wanted to get better as a team, and give ourselves the best chance to win."
While all members of the Pats are looking forward to the opportunity of competing for the Memorial Cup, one player is looking to make amends after last year.
19-year-old defenceman Aaron Hyman was on the Seattle Thunderbirds team that won the WHL title in Regina. Just five days later, the T-Birds started play at the 99th Memorial Cup in Windsor. They lost all three of their games and were outscored 18-3. Hyman says he has unfinished business.
“I’m not happy with how things went last year,” Hyman stated. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there and having a much better experience this time around.
Hyman adds he feels a lot better having had the rest compared to last season.
“Being the host team, I think we have a huge advantage,” Hyman said. “We didn’t want this long a wait, but we’ve taken advantage of the rest while the other teams are just going to another series after working hard to get here. This won’t be like playoffs because you can’t grind teams down. It’s totally different than playoff hockey.”
Game time Friday night is 8 o’clock. Be with 620 CKRM for all the action as Phil Andrews will have the call alongside Jared Dumba.