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Rebels open WHL season at home

The Red Deer Rebels will open their 2014-15 Western Hockey League regular season Sept. 19 against the visiting Kootenay Ice.

Red Deer will visit the Calgary Hitmen the following day and will host the Ice Sept. 27 before heading out on their annual early-season East Division road trip that will include stops in Moose Jaw, Brandon and Regina Oct. 2, 4 and 5.

The Rebels’ longest homestand of the season will come in the New Year when the club will play six straight games at the Centrium from Jan. 16 to 31. The team will play all five U.S. Division squads — Portland, Tri-City, Spokane, Seattle and Everett — from Nov. 1-8, and with a stop Oct. 31 at Kootenay, the overall trip will consist of six games in nine nights.

The Rebels’ final game prior to the Christmas break is Dec. 17 versus the visiting Kelowna Rockets. The club’s first game after Christmas is Dec. 27 against the host Edmonton Oil Kings, who will visit the Centrium the following night.

“There are always going to be different things with your schedule. For example, we go to B.C. just once this year instead of twice as we have in the past,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Wednesday. “And we go from Swift Current to Kootenay (for games March 4 and 6), which we’ve never done before.

“Your schedule is your schedule and every team is going to have times when their schedule is good and times when it’s not like they would want it to be. You just take it for what it is.”

Training camp opens Aug. 20 at the Centrium and the Rebels have six preseason games scheduled, including two at the Oil Kings tournament at St. Albert, two more at the Tri-City Americans tournament at Kennewick, Wash., and Sept. 12 and 13 at the Centrium and in Stettler.

• Rebels forwards Adam Musil and Grayson Pawlenchuk are among 44 players invited to attend the selection camp for the Canadian under-18 team that will compete in the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament Aug. 11-16 in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The camp, which will feature 18 WHL players, is set for Aug. 2-5 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.

Sutter was adamant that both Red Deer players are worthy of their selections based on their respective 2013-14 rookie-season performances.

“Grayson, when he broke his elbow last October . . . at that point in time he might have been our best forward,” said the Rebels bench boss. “And after he returned (in late December) and got his timing back, he played well for us down the stretch. For a 16-year-old kid, he was everything and more that we wanted. He was playing in our top six (forwards) when he got hurt, and we missed him.”

As for Musil . . .

“Adam did everything we wanted him to,” said Sutter. “We had him playing right wing and at centre ice. It’s difficult for a 16-year-old to play centre in this league, but he played really well on the wing and at times we moved him back to centre depending on who we were playing and what the match-ups were. He also did a good job on our second power play unit.”

Both rookies showed they could handle special-teams duty.

“Grayson did a really good job of being one of our top penalty killers and also at times when we needed him on the power play. He’s going to get more power play time next season and Adam will get more penalty killing time.”

The 1997-born players invited to the camp were selected by Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s head scout for men’s national teams, in consultation with head coach Derek Laxdal (Edmonton Oil Kings), assistant coaches Jody Hull (Peterborough, OHL) and Eric Veilleux (/Baie-Comeau, QMJHL), and the Program of Excellence management group.

• Peter Anholt, the Rebels first-ever head coach — from 1992 to ‘95 — and a Rebels assistant under Terry Simpson and Brent Sutter from 1998 to 2000, has joined the Lethbridge Hurricanes as the team’s assistant general manager.

With Robson in search of a right-hand man, Anholt was one of four people short-listed three weeks ago.

“Peter is the guy that can help our club the most. He can help work with the coaches,” Robson told Dale Woodard of the Lethbridge Herald.

Anholt, who was also a WHL head coach in Seattle, Prince Albert and Kelowna, has scouted for Seattle the past three seasons.

“I really enjoyed that,” said Anholt. “I really enjoyed working with Russ Farwell (Thunderbirds president and GM) again. I think that parlays into this position.

“I think I have a good eye for good people and hockey sense. You can’t have a good team without talent and guys that have good hockey sense and can play the game. I think as a staff we have to be open and feel free to speak about what we think of our game and our prospects.”

• With Wednesday’s announcement that Mike Johnston has left the Portland Winterhawks to become head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there are now three bench boss vacancies in the WHL.

Besides the Winterhawks, the Vancouver Giants are also seeking a head coach to replace Don Hay — who has signed with Kamloops — and the Regina Pats are in need of a head man after Tuesday’s surprising dismissal of popular Malcolm Cameron.

The decision to fire Cameron, who last year coached a so-so Pats team to the East Division pennant, came from the new ownership group.

“We all had a chance to review and reflect (on the situation),” team president/part owner Todd Lumbard told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. “We felt — all things considered — we wanted to bring in our own guy who was going to lead us forward.”

 
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