Kambeitz off to hot start

Red Deer Rebels centre Adam Kambeitz believes in himself more this season than ever before, and that’s good news for the Western Hockey League club.

Adam Kambeitz

Adam Kambeitz

Red Deer Rebels centre Adam Kambeitz believes in himself more this season than ever before, and that’s good news for the Western Hockey League club.

“I’ve just been gaining confidence as the season has progressed, and really it’s just through working hard,” the 18-year-old said Monday at the Centrium, where the Rebels staged a morning practice. “Everyone on the team has been working hard and everyone has helped me to raise my level of play and keep the confidence going.”

Kambeitz has racked up eight points, including four goals, in nine games for the 7-2-0-0 Rebels. He was particularly effective during the club’s 4-0 road trip which ended with Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors, scoring three times and adding four assists.

“Outside of two periods in Regina, we had a solid trip,” said Kambeitz. “We worked hard to get those points.”

The Coaldale native, in his third year with the Rebels, is on pace for his best offensive WHL season by far. He racked up nine points (including three goals) in 70 games as a rookie and recorded 16 points (7-9) in 71 games last season.

“I was known as a defensive player the last two years, but Wally (Rebels head coach/VP of hockey operations Jesse Wallin) said at the start of the year that he expects some of us 18-year-olds to start stepping up. I want to step up and keep it going.”

Kambeitz has produced offensively in the past. He scored 11 goals and collected 29 points in 32 outings with the minor midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes during the 2007-08 season, so there is a precedent.

“Everybody develops at different rates and it just took me a few years here,” he said. “I’m finally gaining confidence. I don’t want to get ahead of myself because it’s early in the season, but I’m definitely feeling very confident.”

Wallin is appreciative of the contributions from the five-foot-11, 199-pound Kambeitz.

“He’s been a real key guy for us. He has been in the past as well, as a penalty killer and that type of role, but he’s taken his game to another level,” said Walin. “He’s an 18 year-old-player. There’s a natural progression, he’s in his third year in the league now so he knows what to expect and he has high expectations of himself.

“He’s bigger, older, stronger, more experienced and more confident, and he’s making plays with the puck that he wouldn’t have made a year ago. He’s just more confident, he’s more aware and he’s really skating well. He’s always been a good skater, but he’s a powerful skater now. He’s driving through checks, he’s a strong kid who is tough to knock off his feet. He’s the type of player you expect to take steps for you in order to continue with the team development. He and John Persson have taken big strides this season and we need them to keep pushing forward.”

Indeed, Persson has contributed three goals and seven points, while fellow forwards Turner Elson and Lane Scheidl have each tallied three times and defenceman Alex Petrovic has one goal and seven points. Rookie Tyson Ness has four points (2-2), as do defenceman Colin Archer (1-3) and Brett Ferguson (1-3), while Chad Robinson (1-2) and Colten Mayor (0-3) each have three points and rookie rearguard Matt Dumba has scored twice.

“A lot of different players are stepping up,” said Kambeitz. “If you look at our statistics, the scoring is coming from a variety of players, not just a few guys like it has in the past. It’s good for everyone to get in on it.”

The balanced scoring, along with big-time production from Byron Froese (3-11-14), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (3-11-14) and Andrej Kudrna (7-6-13) and the goaltending of Darcy Kuemper, who boasts a 1.41 goals-against average and a save percentage of .941, have staked the Rebels to top spot in the Central Division.

“The atmosphere around here is very good,” said Kambeitz. “We still need the mindset that we have to keep getting better because every team will be improving, but it definitely is fun coming to the rink and being around the guys.”

• The Rebels host the Saskatoon Blades Friday and entertain the Prince Albert Raiders the following night.

Josh Cowen (mononucleosis) and Elson (concussion) didn’t play on the road trip, but Wallin is hoping that the latter will be available this weekend.

“All signs indicate that (Elson) is doing well,” said Wallin. “He’s been symptom free for a few days so hopefully he continues to progress. If all goes well he can maybe be ready for the weekend.”

Cowen is out indefinitely.

• Kuemper posted his first shutout of the season Saturday at Moose Jaw, stopping 25 shots in the process. Archer, Daulton Siwak and Kambeitz, with an empty-netter in the final minute, supplied the goals.