Matt Bellerive is his own worst critic.
The 18-year-old forward, acquired by the Red Deer Rebels from the Vancouver Giants last September, admitted Monday that he’s been a model of inconsistency this season.
“I did pretty well for the first month and a half or so, then we went on the U.S. road trip (in November) and I didn’t play too well. I went eight or nine games without a point.
“I eventually got back on track but since coming back after Christmas, I haven’t played so great. There have been some good games but I’m just looking for that consistency every night. I thought I’ve played pretty well the last few games and I’ll try and keep that up the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.”
Bellerive, who was moved into a top-six role when he arrived in Red Deer and has recently been skating on the Rebels’ third line with Cory Millette and Conner Bleackley, notched his 14th goal of the season in the Rebels’ 3-0 win over the Swift Current Broncos Saturday. The North Vancouver native has also contributed 20 assists for 34 points through 63 games.
Bellerive was dealt to the Rebels last fall when he requested a trade from the Giants after being a healthy scratch to open the season. As it stands now, he has no regrets.
“I’m really happy here,” he insisted. “I’ve had the opportunity to play more. I can come to the rink every day knowing that I’m going to play and I can prepare mentally for what I want to do on the ice.”
Bellerive has had the luxury of playing under two of major junior hockey’s best coaches — Don Hay in Vancouver and Brent Sutter in Red Deer.
“Brent really harps on back checking and tracking . . . just working hard game in and game out,” said the five-foot-11, 190-pound winger. “It’s not like he’s going to quit that. It’s been good for my game and for everyone else on the team.”
And Hay was/is similar?
“He’s the same,” said Bellerive.
The Giants’ second-round pick in the 2009 WHL bantam draft, Bellerive scored just four goals through 50 games in his rookie season and followed up with six goals and 14 points in 46 games last winter.
He’s currently well ahead of his former pace and is confident that next season could be his best.
“I feel like I can put up some big numbers next year and have a real strong season, for sure,” said Bellerive. “We should have a real strong team.”
Of course, the present campaign has yet to run its course and the Rebels still have a realistic chance of finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference and gaining home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“I can’t believe how fast the season has gone,” said Bellerive. “It’s been a fun year and hopefully we’ll make a good push in the playoffs.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt sees Bellerive as a talented player with untapped potential.
“The biggest thing with Matt is he shoots the puck extremely well. The more he shoots, the more dangerous it is,” said Truitt. “With him, like a lot of players, it’s a matter of keeping his feet moving, not locking up and being a spectator. It’s a matter of being proactive, being part of it. Sometimes that can be the difference between being an impact player or not.”
l Forward Dominik Volek will return to the Rebels lineup tonight versus the visiting Kootenay Ice (7 p.m. start).
Volek sat out the last three games due to illness.