Every play needs a supporting cast and on Saturday night the Red Deer Rebels continued their auditions.
With the Rebels top line of Brandon Hagel, Lane Zablocki and Kristian Reichel in the stands for the final game of their preseason tournament, it was the young guns that were left to put on a show.
With the Centrium as their stage, rookies Austin Schellenberg, 17, and River Fahey, 16, combined for three goals to help earn a 3-1 win for Red Deer against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“They’ve played well since camp started. I don’t know if it’s surprising or anything but at the same time it’s certainly good to see,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.
“I thought all our kids, (Zak) Smith was solid and (Blake) Sydlowski. Those are young guys that are learning the pace.”
With the Rebels down one late in the first, Schellenberg lifted a nifty wrist shot just up over the shoulder of Oil Kings goalie Josh Dechaine for the first Red Deer goal of the game. The tally woke up a sleepy crowd at the Centrium and tied the game late in the second period.
The forward from Grande Prairie played two games for the Rebels early last season and so far this preseason is proving he belongs with the big club.
“He was here last year so we figured that he would bring some skill,” Sutter said.
Fahey continued to make a case to crack the roster as a 16-year-old. The Campbell River, B.C. native scored with a quick shot from the hash mark past Liam Hughes early in the third period to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead.
Fahey was also on the ice in the final minute of the game while the Oil Kings had an extra attacker. He stole the puck at the blue line and fired it the length of the ice for his second goal of the night.
Vying for the backup position to Riley Lamb, Byron Fancy wasn’t tested lot but made 16 of 17 stops in two periods. His best of the game came on breakaway as time expired in the second.
Lamb stepped into the game in the third and made 11 saves.
Red Deer won both their preseason games on the weekend although Sutter stressed that winning wasn’t the biggest takeaway but instead the process of helping young players find their footing in the league.
“The game had it’s moments, it wasn’t a lack of work ethic from either team. I thought both teams worked and battled and there was momentum both ways. It was back and forth,” Sutter said.
“It’s nice for winning but the most important thing is for the team to play well, play hard and compete. See things that all the managers, scouts and coaches want to see. Hopefully all the games, each team got what they wanted out of this.”
Dawson Martin appeared to injury his wrist midway through the second period and did not return. Sutter said post game, “It doesn’t look good.”
With the Rebels sending five players to NHL camps in the coming weeks, the audition for Red Deer’s young talent will continue in Tri-City next weekend.
“In Tri-City it’s going to be a lot of kids playing on a lot of the teams,” Sutter said.
“Which is a good thing, it’s been encouraging from my standpoint, I do like our kids a lot. Even the ones that have gone home already, it’s about developing and making sure we don’t put young players in tough spots and making sure that everybody is playing.”
After the game Saturday, the Rebels cut down their roster to 29 players by reassigning goalie Byron Fancy, defenceman Ryan Gottfried, along with forwards Arshdeep Bains and Ethan Rowland to midget AAA.