It’s one of those cases when two is a crowd and in this case the crowd is in the crease.
Last year’s Red Deer Rebels starting goalie Rylan Toth, and backup Trevor Martin both enter the 2016-17 Western Hockey League Season as overage players.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter has until Oct. 15 to make the decision on which goalie to go with, but the competition starts now.
“They both know only one is going to be here,” said Sutter. “But there’s no rush on that. It’s a nice problem to have.
“I’m not promising anyone anything, they have to earn it. Their play will dictate that through training camp and through the exhibition, they have to earn their stripes. They have to be able to win you games.”
Sutter won’t use two of his three overage spots on goaltenders. In camp he has two other overage players in Colton Bobyk and Evan Polei.
Both made strong cases to play at different points last season. Toth was injured in the run up to the playoffs and for the first round, which gave Martin a shot. Sutter said Martin helped the Rebels push the Lethbridge Hurricanes for first in the Eastern Conference and was key in the first round series win over the Calgary Hitmen.
When Toth returned from injury, he was thrust into action and was critical in the Rebels seven-game series win over the Regina Pats in the Eastern Conference semifinal
Then Toth was strong in net during the Memorial Cup, leading to key wins against the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the round robin. He also kept the Rebels in their semifinal loss to the Huskies.
Toth is feeling confident about his role on the team.
“The fact I played here for the past couple of years, I’m pretty comfortable. I’m not overly concerned,” said Toth. “I just have to take care of my own business and make sure I’m ready to go. I also have to try to help out and be a leader.”
While Martin knows he has to focus on how he performs.
“All you can do is come in and do your best,” said Martin. “You can’t worry about the things around it, you just have to go out and play your game.”
The two were running through on-ice testing on Thursday during the Rebels training camp.
“We certainly think both are really good goalies,” said Sutter. “Last year when Toth went down, Martin stepped right in and played exceptionally for us. He played well. Then when Toth came back he played well for us in the playoffs.
“We’re just going to see. I like them both and we’ll see how it unfolds.”
There is another battle in net for the backup between 2015-16 late season callup Dawson Weatherill, of Red Deer, and Riley Lamb, of River, Man.
Weatherill saw limited action as a backup to Martin when Toth was injured while Lamb had a great season with the Yellowhead Midget AAA in Manitoba. He finished with a 20-6-0-3 record with a 1.82 Goals Against Average, a 0.939 save percentage and four shutouts.
In Weatherill’s five games with the Rebels he had a 3.69 GAA and a 0.881 save percentage. With the Red Deer Midget Chiefs he had a 2.33 GAA and a 0.932 save percentage.
“We have to see where Dawson is at,” said Sutter. “We brought him in at certain points and at times he looked pretty good and other times he struggled. He’s a year older now so we’ll see where his confidence is.
“Lamb was the MVP of the Manitoba AAA Midget League, so we’ll see how he progresses through training camp.”
Camp resumes today from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Centrium.