The Pats (7-3-0-0) are off to a solid start, sitting fourth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Several off-season changes were made after a disappointing season last year, where the team finished in tenth place (23-39-7-3).
“We’ve got new coaches and new systems,” said Weal. “I think they really emphasize aggressiveness because we’ve got a quick team and that helps us out a lot.”
The Pats brought in rookie head coach Pat Conacher, who played 521 games in the NHL in the 1980s and 1990s. Weal said the players are reacting well to the new bench boss.
“The guys really respect him and really know what he wants to do with his team,” said Weal. “When you get the respect from the players for the coach and the coach respects us back, it’s something that really helps a lot.”
Pats goalie Matt Hewitt, in his first full season as the No. 1 guy, said Conacher has helped change the mindset in the dressing room.
“He’s done a lot of good for this team and the guys are really responding well to him,” said Hewitt, 18. “We all are trying to show to him that we can be a winning team and we can do what he wants us to do and we’re just trying to prove that to him everyday at the rink.”
Hewitt has also noticed many changes from last year.
“It’s a lot more positive this year,” said Hewitt. “You can tell the guys really want to be here and want to do well. The guys are really taking it to heart and know we can really do something with this team this year.”
Hewitt has won seven of his eight starts this year and is enjoying success between the pipes. He will be relied on to carry the bulk of the games for the Pats.
“It’s been a really good start and I think we’ve opened some people’s eyes,” he said. “It’s something we really want to continue.”
Weal will also be relied on heavily. Last year, he was Regina’s leading point-getter with 96 points, finishing fifth in the WHL in scoring.
“I have my personal goals set in place but I think the team goals are something that our organization really wants to focus on,” said Weal. “And that’s making the playoffs, not necessarily making them seventh or eighth place, but trying to win a division.”
This year Weal is continuing to enjoy personal success. His 13 points in nine games have helped the Pats get to where they are.
“When you get a couple wins early, it definitely helps (the mentality), because you get a taste of winning,” said Weal. “You want to get it back every time you go on the ice. So when you can get off to the start like we have, it really helps you out for the rest of the year.”
But Weal knows the Pats success is just a start, and coming to the rink prepared every day is vital.
“In a long 72-game season, it’s all about consistency,” said Weal. “If you can bring it as many nights as you can throughout the year, then you’re going to give yourself as much success as you can.”