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Excitement grows for Regina Pats’ season opener against Prince Albert Raiders

Excitement is growing as the Regina Pats get ready for their season opener against the Prince Albert Raiders in Western Hockey League action on Friday. Keith Hershmiller / Regina Pats

When the puck drops between the Regina Pats and the Prince Albert Raiders in Western Hockey League action Friday night it will be the first time either team has played a game in more than a year.

The coronavirus pandemic cut short the 2019-20 season, so to say there is excitement in the room would be an understatement.

For rookie forward Connor Bedard, the anticipation has reached an all-time high after being drafted first overall in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.

Read more: Regina Pats’ Logan Nijhoff becomes 80th captain in team history

Not only was he the number one pick, Hockey Canada granted Bedard exceptional status meaning he has the ability to play a full season in the WHL as a 15-year-old.

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“I don’t really know what to expect. I haven’t played in the league yet. It’s mostly excitement, but there’s going to be some nerves too,” Bedard said.

As for expectations points-wise, Bedard said he will need a game or two to get a better feel of how his game stacks up against some of junior hockey’s best.

“After that first game, I’ll be able to tell more about what I’ll be able to do and what we will be able to do as a team,” Bedard said.

Read more: WHL East Division schedule set for hub centre in Regina

Like every other team in the East Division, the Pats play 24 games this season, and with no playoffs and no Memorial Cup to look forward to, it’s about getting comfortable with teammates and building chemistry for next year.

“We have a large number of first-year guys … the growth as a group is really important,” said Dave Struch, Pats head coach.

“I think that winning hockey games could become the best developer for us. The more right things we do, the least amount of mistakes we make, is going to give us a better chance.”

Defencemen and newly-named assistant captain Ryker Evans will take on more of a leadership role this year, and said winning goes a long way, but understands there will be learning curves throughout the season.

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Read more: WHL East Division schedule set for hub centre in Regina

“Winning is always on the top of our mind because everyone likes to win, but just through growing and being able to fail and fix our mistakes will obviously help us a lot in the future,” Evans said.

Having played in front of some pretty large crowds inside the Brandt Centre over his past couple of seasons, Evans said there will be a little bit of an adjustment playing without fans.

“We’ve got some of the best fans. Going from different rinks to different rinks, you really appreciate our Regina fans,” Evans said.

“Not having them in our building this year will hopefully not make too big of an impact on the way we play, but they definitely bring something every game.”

Game time is 7 p.m. For more details on how to watch the game visit the WHL website.

Click to play video: '15-year-old Connor Bedard shows Swedish touch' 15-year-old Connor Bedard shows Swedish touch
15-year-old Connor Bedard shows Swedish touch – Dec 3, 2020

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