It’s been a tough season for the Red Deer Rebels White.
The Rebels sit last in the Ram South Division of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League with a 4-16-3 record following a 10-5 loss to the Calgary Royals at the Arena Thursday.
“It has been tough, but the kids have to understand they have to be accountable for 60 minutes . . . they have to have a work ethic,” said Rebels head coach Stan Krawiec. “A few of the kids are in their first year at this level and they have to understand they have to work for 20 minutes, then another 20 minutes and then another 20 minutes.
“They have to play for keeps. Every team that comes in here is playing that way, with a purpose and a goal. That’s how it is.”
It’s been tough on the players and the coaches.
“It’s been tough for myself,” said Krawiec. “We have players will all the tools, but it’s been tough at times for them to stay motivated as it’s not the results they expected. But we have to just keep working.”
On Thursday, the Rebels went into the game shorthanded with two of their six defencemen out — Landon Mackenzie, with an eight-game suspension, and six-foot-two, 200-pound Andrew Davis, with the flu — plus Krawiec lost forward Louis Leclerc with an injury in the first period.
That left him with four defencemen and eight forwards.
“With two defencemen out it puts a lot on the other four guys and they get a lot of ice time and tire mentally which leads to mistakes,” said Krawiec.
Plus he ran into some penalty trouble and at one time in the third period had two of his rearguards in the box.
“We ask our defencemen to play a tough, strong game and it does result in some penalties. And when you’re shorthanded it does hurt.”
The Rebels do have a handful of affiliated players, but they were unavailable Thursday.
The Rebels have five players who have played in the league before in Matt Krawiec and Mackenzie, who were with the Rebels White, and Tyler Steenbergen, Tyler Graber and Tyler Wall, who were with the Rebels Black.
The Rebels have only two 13-year-old players in defenceman Domenic Schmiemann and goaltender Dawson Weatherill. The rest are all 14.
What they do have is one of the premier forwards in the league in Steenbergen, who scored three times Thursday, giving him 27 goals and 18 assists on the season.
“Tyler is a third-year player as he played as an underage, and he’s a coach’s dream,” said Krawiec. “He gives it 100 per cent in practice and the games. He’s a good leader on and off the ice. That’s why he’s the captain.”
He’s also someone who will draw a lot of attention when it comes to the Western Hockey League bantam draft.
“I’m not a scout, but from what I’ve seen he’s comparable to the other top-end kids in the league,” said Krawiec.
Steenbergen will get a chance to show his skill up against the other top players Jan. 12 when he competes for the South in the AMBHL All-star game at the Arena. The game goes at 2 p.m. and also includes forward Jeffrey de Wit and defenceman TJ Brown from the Rebels Black.
The Rebels fell into a 5-1 hole in the first period Thursday before outscoring the Royals 3-1 in the second period to make a game of it. They trailed 7-5 at one point in the third period before they seemed to tire.
Kyle Cornford and Josh Bussard also scored for the Rebels. Lane Congdon started in goal, making 18 saves in the first period. Weatherill came on to start the second period and faced 35 shots. The Rebels had 33 shots on the Royals Caiden Kreitz.
l The other defenceman on the team are Colby Sissons and Jared Wright while Reed Engman, Tanner Zentner and Zane Bennett round out the forwards . . . The Rebels host Airdrie Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Arena.