There are times when it takes a team several weeks to come together as a cohesive unit.
Not so with the Red Deer Rebels White major bantam hockey team.
“We have a lot of kids who have played together in the past, so the chemistry was there from the start,” said Rebels head coach Mick Kartusch following a 6-2 win over the Red Deer Rebels White at the Arena Sunday afternoon.
“That allowed us to get out of the gate quickly and hit the ground running more so than what typically happens. Usually it takes until Christmas to come together, but you could see right off the bat we had that cohesion, which allowed us to get off to that fast start.”
As it is the Rebels have had a solid season with a 14-9-2 record and are in second place in the Ram South Division, two points back of the Rocky Mountain Raiders.
“We have to be happy with the way the first two-thirds of the season went. It’s a tight race up top, but we’re doing whatever we can to stay up there. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re happy,” said Kartusch.
The Rebels have three first-year bantams — forwards Wyatt Gelinas and Josh Tarzwell and goalie Duncan Hughes — and three — defenceman Adam Sandstrom, forward Jeremy Klessens and goalie Dawson Weatherill — with experience at the major level.
Klessens is one of the top forwards in the league, but isn’t the only one counted on offensively.
“Jeremy is a top player in the league, but on any given night we get contributions from any of our three lines,” said Kartusch. “It’s tough to be at your peak everyone game, but we have good depth and all three lines contribute, not necessarily on offence all the time, but they work hard and work to keep the puck out of the net.”
Kartusch stresses defence first, which is key to success.
The six-foot-three Weatherill gives the team solid goaltending. He has a 2.52 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage, which is second best in the league.
“Our goaltending has been solid,” said Kartusch. “Weatherill is a veteran and has stood tall for us when needed and Duncan has played well for a first-year kid. Our goaltending has helped us out in several instances when they have to cover up mistakes up front.”
Kartusch goes with six defencemen.
“Sandstrom and Tyrell McCubbing have been real solid for us, but since Day 1 we’ve gone with six defencemen in all situations,” he said.
Carter Blair, Spencer Kelly, DJ Horne and Beaudon Rider are the other defencemen.
The other forwards are Devon Fankhanel, Joel Ray, Nathan Kartusch, Owen Welsh, Jarrett Brandon, Zachary Kungle and Dylan Scheunert.
Kartusch coached the Rebels White two years ago then spent last season in the minor midget AAA program.
“So I am familiar with the league, which helps,” he said.
“Plus we have excellent assistant coaches. In fact the coaches and players are a cohesive group which is exactly what you want.”
Klessens scored twice against the Rebels Black Sunday with singles added by McCubbing, Kungle, Ray and Brandon. Hughes finished with 36 saves while his teammates had 33 shots on Justin Travis. Justin Paarup and Brad Hellofs connected for the Black squad.
l Sandstrom, Klessens and Weatherill were named to the South Division all-star team.