The one commodity the Red Deer Rebels don’t have a lot of is playoff experience.
That’s where the likes of Nathan Green and Aaron Borejko come in.
They’re two of the six players on the Rebels roster with playoff experience. One of those — Landon Ferraro — has only one game, and that three years ago as a 15-year-old.
Green, who spent the last three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings, has played 25 post season games, tops among the forwards while Borejko played 11 playoff games last season with the Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets, who finished second to Windsor in the Memorial Cup.
“It’s important to have those types of players in the locker room, that’s why those guys are here,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
“To have a couple of guys in the room that have been in that situation and have the composure and poise to play in the playoff situation is a big thing for any successful team.”
The others with more than a handful of playoff games under their belt include Brad Haber, Jordie Deagle and Andrej Kudrna. Haber, who plays both defence and forward, played 17 games the last two seasons with Seattle while Kudrna got 14 games in with Vancouver and Deagle 13 with Prince George. Rearguard Cullen Morin was with the Rebels three years ago when they made their last playoff appearance, but was injured and didn’t play.
Green is just back from an extended layoff following a badly broken leg, but will be at full speed for the playoffs. He believes his playoff experience will benefit him and the Rebels.
“With 25 playoffs games in my career hopefully I can use that to my advantage and relax more because I have been there,” said Green, who expects some of the younger players may pick his brain when it comes to preparing for the post season.
“I’m sure some of the guys will have some questions and I’ll be glad to talk with them,” said the 20-year-old native of Winnipeg. “The thing is it’s completely different than during the season. The intensity rises and everyone is playing that much smarter and not taking the dumb penalties. As well everyone is in good spirits no matter if they’re winning or losing.”
Losses are that much tougher to take, agrees Green, but they also have to be forgotten that much quicker.
“You don’t have a lot of time between games, so you have to get over them quickly and move on.”
Borejko saw the majority of his playoff action last season in the final two rounds of the WHL playoffs. He didn’t play in the Memorial Cup.
“But even just being there and seeing what it’s all about was great experience,” he said. “You learn so much from that.”
He also understands he’ll have to take more of a leadership role in the playoffs.
“It’s quite a grind compared to the regular season, but it’s also a lot of fun,” said the 18-year-old from Edmonton. “I do have a little more experience than a lot of the guys on defence and some of the guys are starting to ask me some questions about it. I try to give them the best answers and advise as I can.
“The big difference is that everything is magnified. Everyone plays with intensity, they finish their checks, are blocking shots and trying everything they can to be perfect. And the guys seem ready and I believe we’ll make some noise.”
Borejko is looking forward to returning to the playoffs with this year’s edition of the Rebels.
“This is such a close knit team with a lot of character,” he said. “I believe that will pull us through the playoffs a lot further than what people expect.”
While Green and Borejko will play a role in the Rebels preparation, so will Wallin and the coaching staff of Bryce Thoma, Dallas Gaume and goaltender coacxh Andy Nowicki, all of whom have been through the playoff wars.
“It’s the time of the season where you have to be intense yet not tense,” said Wallin.
“You simply can’t get wound up, overly excited and let your emotions control you. You have to be in a situation where you’re reacting.
“We always stress practice habits and doing things right every day. Now is the time to rely on those habits and just go out and play.”