Rebels do themselves few favours

The Lord helps those who help themselves.

The Lord helps those who help themselves.

The hockey gods, it has been reported, operate in much the same manner.

Granted, teams can take advantage of the misfortune of their opponents to, say, slip into a playoff spot through the back door . . . so to speak.

But to ensure at least a modicum of success and earn the respect of the hockey gods, you have to take care of business yourself.

Presently, the Red Deer Rebels are seemingly content with the notion that one or more of the teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference will eventually hit a rough spot.

Rather than making the appropriate moves themselves, they appear to be banking on the possibility that a post-season berth will be granted by default.

How else to explain back-to-back putrid performances in a 4-0 loss at Swift Current and a 5-1 home-ice defeat at the hands of the Calgary Hitmen?

“It all starts with your work ethic. If you don’t have that then you don’t have anything,” Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin said Thursday.

“That’s been a staple of our game this season, something that hasn’t been much of an issue outside of a game or two here or there.

“We don’t have a work ethic issue, but the last two games we have.

“I don’t know if that’s guys feeling sorry for themselves or what the case is, but it can’t continue to happen.”

During Tuesday’s loss to the Hitmen, the Rebels seemed to play at half speed and with little interest.

Urgency was, apparently, a dirty word.

As a result, the players were put through the grinder by Wallin and his equally perturbed assistants Bryce Thoma and Chris Neiszner during practice Wednesday afternoon. Each and every one got to experience a major ‘bag skate’.

“We had a tough practice yesterday and it wasn’t about punishment, it was a wake-up call. It was about reestablishing where our level of intensity needs to be,” said Wallin.

“They are all capable of working hard and they’ve all shown the capacity that they can be at, but we can’t have efforts like we had the other night. It’s just unacceptable.”

The Hitmen are a solid team and Tuesday’s win was their eighth in succession, but they are hardly the second coming of the old Kamloops Blazers or even the Rebels of a decade ago.

Still, Calgary captain Cody Sylvester danced around Red Deer D-men all evening and 16-year-old rookie centre Greg Chase resembled former Hitmen star Ryan Getzlaf in his WHL prime while scoring just his second goal of the year and setting up two tallies.

“No disrespect to Calgary, but regardless of who you’re playing you can make anyone look good when you don’t skate and touch anybody,” said Wallin.

“We didn’t move our feet and we didn’t finish any checks or win any battles.

“You can’t move the puck if you’re not moving your feet and you can’t finish checks when you’re standing still and watching. Outside of our penalty kill, there was no area of our game that was strong. Again, it all comes down to work ethic . . . it all comes back to that foundation and from here we have to respond the right way.”

Two months ago, the Rebels owned the league’s best win percentage. Since then, injuries have surely taken their toll, but there’s enough talent and experience here to qualify for the playoffs even it means performing at a .600 pace or better down the stretch.

A four- to five-game winning streak would pull the Rebels back into the picture, but there’s an expiry date on when that streak must start.

On the move: The trade deadline had come and gone when the Vancouver Giants added a player who could arguably make an impact come March. That is, if he plays at all this season.

The Giants picked up overage forward Austin Fyten earlier this week on waivers from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Fyten suffered a severe knee injury in an exhibition games with the ‘Canes in September and had to undergo reconstructive surgery. At the outside, he won’t be able to play until March, but is already in Vancouver to work with the Giants’ doctors and trainers in hopes of returning.

“I was looking forward to coming to Vancouver after I got the call,” Fyten told Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province. “I know they have a lot of good doctors out here. They have a lot of good rehab out here. I was pretty happy to hear I was coming out here. I know some of the guys, too.”

Just notes: Due to a knee injury, flashy Russian forward Nail Yakubov of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting won’t be strutting his stuff in front of Kelowna fans during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Feb. 1 at Prospera Place, but Kelowna Rockets vice-president of business development Gavin Hamilton is confident it will still be a solid show. “I don’t think it’s really going to change things. You’ve still got the 30-some top draft-eligible players in Canada,” Hamilton told Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier. “(Yakupov) made a bit of an impact at the world juniors, but there’s still going to be an awful lot of exciting players for our fans to watch.” Yakubov and three others OHLers won’t be in Kelowna due to injuries, with the beneficiary subs being Mike Winther of the Prince Albert Raiders, Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants, Tim Bozon of the Kamloops Blazers and the Seattle Thunderbirds’ Branden Trook.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com