Coetzee out with a bang?
Team White 9 Team Black 8 (SO)
If Willie Coetzee did indeed play his final game in a Red Deer Rebels jersey Wednesday, he can at least say he went out with a bang.
Coetzee, who last year signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent, fired four goals to help Team White post a 9-8 shootout win over Team Black in the McDonald’s Black and White intrasquad game played before roughly 2,500 fans at the Centrium.
Coetzee leaves for the Red Wings camp Sept. 9, and with a contract in his back pocket the 20-year-old winger is a good bet to spend the 2010-11 season within the Detroit organization. And if he’s returned, the Rebels will be waiting with open arms.
“It was fun playing with all the boys tonight,” said Coetzee, who’s not entirely convinced that he’ll be in the pro ranks this winter. “I don’t know what’s happening this year so I’m just going to go to Detroit’s camp and see what happens. If I play here this season I’ll be happy and if I play pro I’ll be happy. It’s a win-win, right?”
Clearly, Coetzee is excited about the prospects of attending his second Red Wings camp, where he earned a contract last fall.
“It’s going to be a good camp, it’s always fun there,” he said. “It’s a bit of vacation kind of thing, they treat you so well there. And it’s always fun playing in a Red Wings jersey.”
Coetzee is sporting a few extra pounds of muscle this fall, which will help his cause at pro camp.
“I was told to get bigger and stronger,” he stated. “The players are bigger and stronger and the game is faster at the next level. I’m still fast but not fast enough, so I still have to work on everything that I can. The skills are there but I just have to keep pushing.
“I’m going to have to come in better than I was last year. Obviously the Detroit people are going to expect way more from me this year and I’ll have to show myself and earn my own spot.”
Coetzee was impressed with the firepower on display Wednesday, even if he was front and centre in that department.
“I saw a few guys play really well tonight,” he said. “I don’t know most of the younger guys, but it’s nice to see some flair and finish out there, and there was some great defensive play too.”
Also scoring for the winners were Matt Dumba, Tyson Ness, on a great individual play, Byron Froese and Turner Elson, on a penalty shot. Froese and Elson also connected in the shootout, while Coetzee was stopped by Bolton Pouliot.
Team Black trailed 5-1 approaching the midway point of the second period, and were down 8-6 late in the contest before Andrej Kudrna, with his second of the game, and Matt Pufahl, in the final minute, scored 40 seconds apart with Pouliot on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Steve Oursov, Josh Cowen, Adam Kambeitz, Chase McMurphy and Daulton Siwak also tallied for the Black squad. McMurphy also connected in the shootout, but Scott Feser and Cory Millette were turned aside by 15-year-old Will Heseltine.
“It was certainly an exciting game to watch and an exciting finish, for sure,” said Rebels head coach/vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin. “It was good to see some of the younger guys in the lineup and it was good to see them get some experience. It gave us a read on how some of these kids perform in this environment, with fans in the building and what not.
“All in all it served its purpose and it was a good game.”
Rookies such as Ness and McMurphy showed definite flashes of speed and skill, as did fellow forward Marc McCoy and defenceman Lucas Grayson, both 16.
Still, the intrasquad contest did not serve as a make-or-break for the younger prospects. The 16- and 17-year-olds who are definite ‘maybes’ for this season’s team did not earn extra marks for their performances Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t say anybody stuck out one way or the other tonight. This year things have kind of unfolded as we expected they would,” said Wallin.
“Regarding the players we’ll be sending home tonight and the list of players we’ll carry into the exhibition season . . . it’s pretty close to what we expected it would be at this point.”
Wallin also expressed his satisfaction with the play of 18-year-old forwards Kambeitz, Elson, Colten Mayor and Lane Scheidl through training camp and the Black and White contest.
“It’s neat to see the growth in these guys,” he said. “They’re a big part of our team now but they’re also going to carry the team in the future, so it’s good to see the progress they’ve made.”
Scheidl collected three assists Wednesday, while McCoy, Mayor, Siwak, Chad Robinson and fourth-year rearguard Justin Weller each had two.
Darcy Kuemper allowed two goals in the Team Black net, with the winners scoring three against Tanner Jaillet and getting three pucks past Pouliot.
Team White starter Kraymer Barnstable allowed one goal while Zach Rakochy surrendered two and also made the biggest saves of the evening, and Heseltine was touched for five in the third period.
• The Rebels were set to release 14 players following the intrasquad game. The list wasn’t available at press time.
Six players — Coetzee, Kudrna (Phoenix), Froese (Chicago), Weller (Phoenix), Alex Petrovic (Florida) and Kuemper (Minnesota) — will depart for NHL camps next week, which will leave 24 players for the Rebels’ preseason schedule which opens next Wednesday at Airdrie versus the Calgary Hitmen.
• The Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants will play a regular-season game in the Yukon city of Whitehorse Feb. 12 as part of CBC’s national coverage of Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada.