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'We've been waiting all offseason for it': Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors readying for WHL season

The Western Hockey League (WHL) will open its regular season on Friday.

The Regina Pats will hit the road to face the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday night before their home opener on Saturday against the Saskatoon Blades.

The Pats lost to the Blades in game seven in the first round of the WHL playoffs last season.

“It’s awesome to get back at Saskatoon [right away] to kind of get some revenge. Really looking forward to Saskatoon,” said Pats’ forward Tanner Howe.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “We’ve been waiting all offseason for it. Our group’s really pumped and we’ve been working really hard in practice.”

Howe, 17, is entering his draft year this season, but the Prince Albert product is not letting that get to his head.

“It’s in the back in my head a little, but trying to focus on my game this year and how our team performs,” he said. “Just be yourself and play your game [is my mindset].”

Perhaps the most noticeable difference for the Pats will be the absence of Connor Bedard who went first overall in the National Hockey League (NHL) draft in June to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“We have guys that are skilled. I mean, Connor’s not here so we’re going to have to touch the puck a little bit more,” said Zach Stringer, forward for the Pats.

“Everybody talks about that, us losing Connor and [Stanislav] Svozil. But those guys were big voices in the room and they took up a lot of offensive time, which they should’ve. They deserved it 100 per cent. I just think our guys are excited for their opportunity [this year] and to be relied on like those guys were last year,” said Herauf.

“We’re excited to get things going. We’re done practicing against each other, want to start taking it out on the other opponent. Just want to get that first win under our belts,” added Herauf.

The Moose Jaw Warriors will also begin their season on the road, taking on the Prince Albert Raiders on Friday and will return home to face the Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday.

“It’s going to be good. Going into PA, it’s not an easy building to play in but I think we’re excited for the challenge. We worked pretty hard throughout the pre-season to get to this point,” shared Warriors’ centre, Atley Calvert.

This is Calvert’s final year of junior hockey. The 20-year-old Moose Jaw product has spent parts of every season with his hometown team.

“I think every guy says that in the league that it just flies by. It’s the best time in your life. You really got not a lot going on, all you do is come to the rink and hang out with the boys. It’s awesome, playing at home has been great. It’s truly an honour to play here for all five years of my career,” he said.

The Warriors have lost out in the second round the last two years to the Winnipeg Ice.

“We had a great two teams the last two years just couldn’t get it done. Just fuels us to push farther and go farther this year,” said Lucas Brenton, defenceman for the Warriors.

The Ice are now located in Wenatchee, Wash. and are now known as the ‘Wild,” which means the Warriors will not get a chance at redemption until March due to the team moving divisions.

“I’m from there [Winnipeg] too so it kind of sucks that I can’t go back home. But at the same time, it’s a long bus trip and, you know, it wasn’t the best rink. We’re not too worried about that,” joked Brenton.

Both Brenton and Calvert spent time at NHL rookie camps this fall, Brenton with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Calvert with the Chicago Blackhawks, the same team as his former Regina Pats opponent, Connor Bedard.

“He’s a heck of a player. We got to see him a bunch here [in Moose Jaw]. It was the same stuff. He was pulling some pretty insane stuff out there. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played against. It’s always good to learn from a guy like that,” said Calvert.

The Warriors will be without Denton Mateychuk, Jagger Firkus, and Brayden Yager to start the season. The three are still away at NHL training camps.

“It’s that first weekend, everyone’s excited but at the same time, some of your big guys aren’t here. But we’re looking to get two wins here and let them come back on a good note,” said Brenton.

Brenton was able to spend time with his Warriors’ teammate, Yager, at Penguins camp before coming back to Moose Jaw.

“I think anytime your teammate can be there, I think it’s pretty awesome. We played on the same line the one game so that was pretty cool,” Brenton smirked.

Puck drop for both the Pats and Warriors games on Friday is 7 p.m. Top Stories

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