The Red Deer Rebels will face off against the Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday in one of their final home games of the WHL shortened season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)

The Red Deer Rebels will face off against the Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday in one of their final home games of the WHL shortened season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)

Red Deer Rebels recent play encouraging as regular season winds down

Tough test Saturday against the top-ranked Edmonton Oil Kings

There have been encouraging signs that the dam is about to break, only there isn’t much time for it to do so.

The Red Deer Rebels will play game 21 of the shortened WHL season Saturday, with only two remaining after that.

Red Deer is 2-16-2 on the year and has lost 13 straight games, dating back to March 14, when the season was just a few weeks old.

Their quest to snap that streak will be their David versus Goliath moment – with at least six regulars slated to be out of the lineup, the Rebels will take on the mighty Edmonton Oil Kings.

Edmonton has bested the Rebels in all six contests between the two teams this season, and they also won all seven last year.

That leads to Red Deer’s recent play, an encouraging 4-3 overtime defeat in which the Rebels deserved more than the one point they got in an extra frame loss.

“Lots of guys are getting opportunities to play in situations that they haven’t really played in before. It’s definitely a building block for us and I think it’s a good sign that guys keep pushing and keep working,” said assistant coach Ryan Colville after the loss Thursday.

Edmonton’s power play is 27.8 per cent on the year and if the Rebels have any hope against the Oil Kings, their penalty kill, which was perfect against the Hitmen Thursday, needs to be better than the 61 per cent mark they’ve posted this season.

“I think it’s just a matter of simple, mental mistakes,” said defenceman Joel Sexsmith earlier this week about the Rebels’ play when down a man this season.

“I think we’ve been given a pretty good plan with the penalty kill. I’m on it so I’m pretty aware of what we need to get done in order to make a kill successful. I think as far as the penalty kill goes, it’s those small little errors – when you look at teams like Edmonton or Medicine Hat…

“You look at their power-play percentage and the amount of talent they have on their team, there’s no doubt in my mind you can’t afford to make those small little errors against teams like that because they will take advantage.”

Edmonton has also only lost twice this season and has wins in nine of their last 10 games. A tall task to say the least.

“I’d argue it’s the toughest division in the league as of right now, especially with teams like Edmonton and Medicine Hat,” added Sexsmith.

“Really deep teams and good goaltending and certain players that are able to change the dynamic of a game. I think for us, we need to buy into each of our roles. Every guy is important on this team. No matter where they are in the depth chart. As soon as we realize that and we’re able to put together a full 60, we’re a really good team.”

The Rebels host the Oil Kings Saturday, travel to Calgary Sunday before rounding out the regular season on Tuesday against the Hitmen.



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