It has been a tough start to the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League season for the Red Deer Rebels Black.
Their 4-1 loss to the North West Calgary Flames on Sunday at the Red Deer Arena dropped them to 1-17-1 on the season, but head coach Carter Duffin has been impressed with the resiliency of his team this year.
“They’re a special group of kids, every night they push forward whether it’s 2-1 or the couple of losses that have been heavy on us,” he said. “The next day at practice and dry land, they’re still early, they’re ready to go to work and make themselves better.”
That resiliency showed in Sunday’s loss as they hung tight with the Flames — one of the top teams in the league — through 40 minutes, trailing 2-1 to start the third period.
But two defensive zone breakdowns in the final frame took them out of the game.
Wyatt Gelinas scored Red Deer’s lone goal while Steven Arthur stopped 46 shots in the loss.
“We were getting outshot, but the opportunities on the shots they were getting were perimeter shots and I’m OK with that because I trust my goalies to make those stops,” said Duffin. “We had the opportunity on rushes and we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
The Rebels are in a pretty deep hole, though if they can get hot in the next few weeks they could still get back into contention. Heading into the weekend they had been outscored 131-39 and have been outshot badly for much of the campaign.
The team is taking steps to get better and it is showing in the secondary stats like shots for and shots against. It is also showing in the eyeball test with improved play in both ends of the rink.
“The team is doing a lot of things right, the problem is when we make a mistake it’s getting capitalized on,” said Duffin. “The process is there, the results aren’t there as fast as some people would hope, but I’m seeing a lot of positives.”
One of their bright sides has been the play of their captain Josh McNeil who leads the team with 20 points (11 goals, nine assists). Second on the list is Hayden Clayton with 13 points (3-10-13) and Deegan Mofford (4-6-10).
“The biggest thing about Josh is he makes the guys around him better as well, it’s not just him,” said Duffin. “On and off the ice, he pushes himself, he pushes his teammates. He’s a very character player.”
The Rebels will be in Lansing, Mich., for a tournament against some of the best academy teams in the U.S. the first week of December, including Shattuck St. Mary’s — though they’re not scheduled to play them — the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals Team Illinois and the Michigan Nationals.
“It will be a good contest for us to see some different style of hockey from the central and eastern United States,” said Duffin.
The Rebels are in Calgary next Saturday to play the Calgary Bisons (10-1-4) and then host the Medicine Hat Tigers (0-13-2) on Sunday at the Arena at noon.
• The Rebels Black were 6-1 losers at Lethbridge Saturday, their lone goal coming off the stick of Deegan Moffard. Argent made 34 saves for the Rebels Black, outshot 40-21.
• The Red Deer Rebels White, with Elijah Funkhouser recording a hat trick, earned a 4-4 draw with the host Calgary Northstars Sunday. Kyle Budvarson also tallied for the visitors, who got a 27-save outing from the combination of Justin Verveda and Duncan Hughes while outshooting their guests 37-31.