Now 23 games into the Western Hockey League season, the Red Deer Rebels are still in search of that acceptable level of conformity.
The Rebels, 10-11-1-1, have strung three wins together just once this season and are coming off a so-so 2-3 road trip that ended on a bad note with Friday’s 8-1 loss to the Kelowna Rockets.
So, yet again, it’s back to the drawing board this week.
“It’s really about consistency, about finding that consistency, and it starts with our work ethic,” Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin said on Monday at the Arena, where the club practised as Westerner employees worked on preparing the Centrium — used for Agri-Trade last week — for Saturday’s game versus the visiting Swift Current Broncos.
“When you don’t compete you have no chance to win,” Wallin continued, “and in a couple of those (road-trip) games we have ourselves absolutely no chance. We just weren’t mentally engaged and therefore our feet weren’t moving and we just didn’t play the game the way we needed to play at all.”
Wallin was referring to the 5-1 loss at Portland and the Kelowna debacle.
“In the games we lost we were not intense. We got killed by Kelowna because we weren’t playing the body. It was a rough game for us,” added Rebels captain Turner Elson. “We have a long week off and hopefully we can get to where we need to be. We’ll be practising hard to get our work ethic up. Obviously it’s not there yet.”
The Rebels opened their recent jaunt with a victory at Spokane, where the Chiefs had not lost this season previous to Red Deer’s visit. But that win was followed by back-to-back losses to Tri-City and Portland before the tourists earned a positive result at Everett.
And then came the trip-ending stop in Kelowna.
“We checked out a day early. We showed up in body but we weren’t there mentally,” said Wallin. “We just didn’t play well at all.
“Overall, we had a good start to the trip. We played really well in Spokane, then our next two games weren’t very good. We were better in Everett and then we didn’t finish well at all.”
And so . . .
“We’re going to take advantage of this week,” said Wallin. “We’ve played a lot of hockey over the last month and haven’t had a lot of practice time, so this week will be an important week for us to work on some details.”
Elson, meanwhile, is convinced that consistently better times for the team are just around the corner.
“Guys just have to get used to each other. We have a lot of new faces,” he said. “We’ll get going real soon.”
On a positive note, the Rebels came out of the trip healthy with only defenceman Kayle Doetzel remaining out of the lineup. Doetzel will have the wire removed from his jaw — broken during an Oct. 2 game at Prince Albert — on Wednesday.
“He can start skating at that point,” said Wallin. “Once he gets skating and eating then it’s just a matter of his conditioning and getting back into game shape. So hopefully he won’t be out much longer.”
l Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba will serve as an assistant captain for Team WHL in the fifth and sixth games of the Subway Super Series with Team Russia on Wednesday and Thursday in Vancouver and Victoria.
Everett rearguard Ryan Murray and Swift Current forward Adam Lowry will be the Team WHL captains. The other assistants are defencemen Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors.