Rebels 4 Oil Kings 1
LACOMBE — Jesse Wallin looks at Patrik Bartosak and he sees a good ol’ prairie boy.
“Half the battle with the imports coming over is how they’re going to adjust and this kid seems like he should have been born in small-town Saskatchewan,” the Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach said Friday after the Czech netminder was stellar while stopping 26 shots in a 4-1 Western Hockey League preseason win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“He just loves being here and he’s fit right into our dressing room. There’s going to be an adjustment period as we knew and I think he’s probably ahead of the curve in that regard so far. The next test will be the regular season, but I have no reason to believe he won’t continue to progress. He just looks real confident and real comfortable and that’s a good thing.”
Bartosak, the Rebels’ lone pick in June’s Canadian Hockey League import draft, kept the Rebels in the game in a first period in which they were outshot 12-4 but went to the intermission in a scoreless tie.
He didn’t miss a beat from there, robbing T.J. Foster on three occasions over the final 40 minutes as well as making back-to-back stops on Cole Benson.
“I am happy. I was a little bit nervous before the game because I haven’t got so many minutes here. But after five minutes tonight it was OK. I felt pretty good,” said the 18-year-old product of Koprivnice, Czech Republic.
Bartosak confirmed that he’s big-time happy to be blocking shots for the Rebels.
“Everybody is so nice here, the boys are best boys,” he said. “I didn’t think that boys would be so good here. I’m not used to have so nice boys in Czech Republic.”
The Rebels struggled through the first 20 minutes and the situation didn’t improve when the Oil Kings opened the scoring 56 seconds into the middle frame, Curtis Lazar breaking in on a two-on-one following a turnover at the Edmonton blueline and beating Bartosak to the glove side.
Red Deer pulled even in short order when Brooks Maxwell’s shot from the left faceoff circle rang off the post and past Oil Kings 16-year-old stopper Tristan Jarry, and Scott Feser, 16, potted the eventual winner at 6:50 when Jarry was caught out of position and left a gaping net for the rookie hopeful.
Joel Hamilton gave Red Deer a two-goal cushion when he circled the net and cashed his own rebound late in the second period, and the Rebels carried the momentum into the final stanza, outshooting the Oil Kings 14-7 and getting an empty-net goal from Colten Mayor at 18:05.
“In the first period I don’t know if we were thinking too much or what was going on,” said Wallin. “We had some new faces in the lineup and it was kind of a lot for them to take in. So maybe it was a matter of thinking too much rather than reacting.
“We started to get our feet moving in the second period and started competing and battling. From the 10-minute mark of the second period, in particular, we just raised the level of our play and played well from there. There were a lot of positives tonight. The key now is to make sure the guys are prepared off the hop because that’s not the way we want to start a game.”
The Rebels bench boss was impressed with 16-year-old defenceman Kayle Doetzel, among several others.
“Outside of Bartosak, Kayle was our best player in the first period and throughout the game he showed some maturity, played physical and really stood his ground,” said Wallin, who among the younger set was also impressed with the play of Maxwell and Feser, the forward line of Marc McCoy, Cory Millette and Hamilton, and rearguards Stephen Hak, Matt Pufahl and Kevin Pochuk.
“All in all, the younger guys made good strides tonight,” said the Rebels coach.
The Rebels will conclude preseason play tonight when they take on the Medicine Hat Tigers at 7:30 p.m. at the Stettler Recreation Centre. Veteran forward Adam Kambeitz, who returned from the Phoenix Coyotes rookie camp Wednesday, will see his first preseason action.