Red Deer Rebels head coach Justin Jarmolicz is hoping that opposing Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League teams took notice of his team’s performance Tuesday at the Arena.
The Rebels turned in a solid workmanlike performance and got an outstanding 42-save effort from netminder Bretton Park while earning a 2-2 tie with the Calgary Bisons, one of the top three or four clubs in the province.
“That was our goal — we wanted to make sure that we put some doubt into the minds of everybody else, to remind them that we’re starting to come real hard,” said Jarmolicz. “We’re starting to improve and we’re starting to get to the level of some of these top teams.
“Our defencemen are getting much better at moving the puck up the ice and our goalie was spectacular tonight. Let’s not beat around the bush — he was the difference. When we get efforts like that it pulls everyone else along.”
The Rebels are the lone Red Deer major bantam team this season. For many years, the city had two teams — the Rebels Black and White — but the scenario finally ran its course.
“The two-team thing got watered down,” said Jarmolicz, who was an assistant to Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Chiefs head coach Brandin Cote last season and has also coached at the minor midget AAA level.
“It affected every level. It wasn’t just bantam triple A, it was bantam double and single A. It really suffered because it put kids in situations where they might not succeed. By moving to one team we wanted to be able to compete with these top teams like we did tonight.”
The elimination of one side also eliminated the restriction on imports. The current 19-man Rebels roster consists of six players from Red Deer, with the remainder hailing from communities within a 50-mile radius of the city.
Deegan Mofford is a rather large centre-piece of the team’s forward group. The six-foot-two, 180-pound native of Rocky Mountain House is the Rebels’ top scorer and entered Tuesday’s contest with 20 goals and 43 points in 23 games, good for 11th spot in the league.
Naturally, Mofford has drawn interest from Western Hockey League scouts.
“He’s definitely on their radar,” said Jarmolicz.
“He’s putting up points and he’s a big body. They (scouts) are talking about him. They’re talking about quite a few of our guys.”
Defencemen Cade Mason and Jackson Rider, forwards Griffen Ryden, who is 30th in league scoring with 27 points (11g,16a), Caileb Berge and Kyle Gerritts, and goaltender Park have also caught the eye of more than one major junior bird dog.
Rearguard Kyle Richmond is the Rebels captain and brings all the attributes that Jarmolicz likes to see in an on-ice leader.
“He’s a bulldog and he’ll battle and go until his arm breaks,” said the coach. “Then he’ll tape it up and keep going. He’s that type of player. He’s a warrior.”
The Rebels, who got a goal from each of Berge and Mason Tuesday, have a 9-11-4 record heading into the Christmas break and Jarmolicz is confident that the best is yet to come. He’s hoping his team will be hitting its stride as the playoffs approach.
“That’s always your goal as a coach — to stick with the process and get these guys ready and poised for when the games matter,” he said. “Right now we’d be 2-2 going into overtime against a pretty good team. That’s all you can ask.”
Blessed with size, the Rebels can hold their own against the larger, more ill-tempered teams in the league.
“We’re a big strong team and my teams have always been physical,” said Jarmolicz. “You can see my team from a mile away. We skate hard and we work. We get our lunch buckets out and really have at ‘er.
“We’re always going to be physical on the forecheck and everywhere else on the ice to try and create space for ourselves.”