Pouliot continues to improve for the Rebels
While Bolton Pouliot was struggling during the first half of the 2011-12 Western Hockey League season and pucks were finding the spot between his pads, most of his troubles originated between his ears.
“This summer I focused on the mental end of things. That was one of my struggles last year and by the end of the season I think I started to understand that a little better,” the Red Deer Rebels second-year netminder said Wednesday after helping Team Black post a 5-2 win over Team White in the intrasquad game before roughly 1,000 fans at the Centrium.
“So I took that upon myself this summer to continue to figure it out and work harder at it.”
Pouliot got his act together later in his rookie WHL campaign and carried that momentum into training camp this year. He pitched a shutout during the first half of Wednesday’s Black and White outing — before leaving the crease to rookie Taz Burman — and looked solid in the process.
“It was fun getting back out into a game situation tonight,” he said.
Certainly, Pouliot has no intention of slipping back into the form he showed during the first few months of his freshman season.
“I don’t want to backtrack, I want to go forward,” said the 18-year-old Calgary product. “I want to push Patty (Rebels No. 1 stopper Bartosak) this season and have a healthy competition with him. It should be a lot of fun.”
Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin liked what he saw from Pouliot through training camp and during the Black and White game.
“Bolton played real well tonight, he’s looked poised in there,” said Wallin. “He’s showing some maturity in his game right now. He had a good camp and tonight he played with a lot of poise. The puck was hitting him and he was putting them in good places, usually in the corner.
“He was square to the puck. He just made it look easy.”
Wallin also had words of praise for 15-year-old Vancouver native Burman, the club’s second-round pick in this year’s bantam draft, and Grant Naherniak, who kept Team White’s comeback hopes alive by not allowing a goal in the third period.
“Young Burman handled himself very well, he’s a guy we’re excited about,” said Wallin. “And young Naherniak made some good saves as well, especially later in the game. It looks like we have some depth coming at that position.”
Pouliot and Naherniak, along with Matt Mitchell of Calgary, who was beaten for three of the Team Black goals, will be back in action today when the Rebels play another intrasquad game at the Penhold Multiplex. The puck drops at 3 p.m.
Scoring for Team Black, which led 2-0 after one period and 4-0 after 40 minutes, were 15-year-olds Brayden Burke and Grayson Pawlenchuk, rookie hopeful and Sylvan Lake product Chase Thudium, veteran defenceman Devan Faford and returnee Tyson Ness, who sealed the deal with a empty-net marker at 18:46 of the third period.
Team White rallied to cut the deficit to 4-2 when prospect Vukie Mpofu and returning forward Joel Hamilton beat Burman to the short side just over a minute apart early in the final frame.
“I saw a lot of good things tonight and overall it was a pretty evenly-matched game,” said Wallin. “I thought the younger guys handled themselves well and the game accomplished what we wanted it to.”
Not that it was classic hockey, which is seldom seen so early in the season.
“It was a bit sloppy at times, but you expect that at this time of the year,” said Wallin. “At other times there was some really good puck movement and some good plays were made, so that was good to see.”
Minnesota Wild first-round NHL draft pick Mathew Dumba — a likely WHL all-star defenceman this season — suffered a facial injury in the first period. Dumba ran face-first into the crossbar while jamming the net and didn’t return, although the injury is not serious.
Meanwhile, defenceman Kayle Doetzel took a puck to the face in the second period and also sat out the rest of the game.
“Matty’s was a violent collision but he’s no worse for wear,” said Wallin. “He got some sutures in his forehead and he’s going to need a little dental work as well. But outside of that he should be OK.”
Wallin had no problem with the aggression Dumba showed through his short stint in the intrasquad game.
“We’ve been really pleased with Matty’s play in camp. He’s come in and hasn’t tried to do too much,” said the Rebels bench boss. “He’s just really shown a maturity in his game. He’s taken charge, but he’s also a guy who plays hard at all times.
“He’s played at some pretty high levels with Team Canada this summer. He’s come back and hasn’t let off. He’s played hard and tonight was a good example of that. It doesn’t matter where he’s playing, he plays hard. He loves to play hockey and it shows every time he’s on the ice.”
• Burman was reassigned following the game and is expected join a team in the B.C. Major Midget League this season.
Also reassigned were 16-year-old defenceman Holden Daley of Sherwood Park and rearguard Cole Perison, 15, of Kamloops.
The moves left the Rebels with 41 players for today’s second intrasquad game in Penhold. The roster will be pared again following the contest.