If it ain’t broke . . .
The Red Deer Rebels coaches liked what they saw in the club’s 3-0 Western Hockey League preseason-opening win over Calgary Wednesday at Airdrie. Therefore, the Red Deer roster for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. rematch with the Hitmen at the Innisfail Arena will remain intact.
“We’re going with the same lineup tomorrow night,” Rebels head coach/vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin confirmed Friday. “We want the young kids to play as much as they can.”
As a result, rookies Matt Pufahl, Lucas Grayson and Matt Dumba will return to the blueline, along with 20-year-olds Nick Bell and Brad Haber and 18-year-old Brad Deagle, who has played the last two seasons with the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL.
Captain Colin Archer will join Aaron Borejko as the reserve rearguards with Alex Petrovic and Justin Weller having departed for NHL training camps.
The forwards lines will remain the same, with newcomer Chad Robinson skating with veterans Turner Elson and John Persson, and Tyson Ness, Marc McCoy and Locke Muller forming an all-rookie unit. The other lines will feature Colten Mayor with Adam Kambeitz and Daulton Siwak, and Lane Scheidl with Steve Oursov and rookie Mason Burr.
In the stands will be Josh Cowen, who’s still under league suspension, Brett Ferguson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Andrej Kudrna, Willie Coetzee and Byron Froese have left for NHL camps.
“For the most part, our younger forwards were impressive the other night. But now we’re on to the next game and we’ll see how they look tomorrow,” said Wallin. “We’ll give them all the opportunity to play again and get some experience and we’ll continue to evaluate them. The guys who are sitting out, we know what they bring, and we’ll get them in next week.”
Nugent-Hopkins, who last month helped lead Team Canada win gold at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament and then attended a research, development and orientation camp linked to the World Hockey Summit in Toronto, has yet to appear in a scrimmage since checking into training camp. Wallin previously stated that the young star is simply being rested and he repeated himself Friday.
“We can give him a little more time off here. Hoppy played all of August and he has nothing to prove,” said Wallin. “He has a big year ahead of him with lots going on, including the (CHL) Prospects Game (Jan. 19 in Toronto), so there’s no point in running him through all of these exhibition games. He already has a lot of summer games under his belt.”
With Darcy Kuemper attending the camp of the Minnesota Wild, fellow 20-year-old Kraymer Barnstable and rookie Bolton Pouliot will guard the Rebels net tonight. Pouliot will get the starting nod.
l As expected, the Rebels coaches and players aren’t placing much stock in the CHL Top 10 preseason rankings which have Red Deer listed as No. 10 in the nation.
“It’s nice to have the recognition, for sure, but it’s preseason and doesn’t mean a whole lot right now. It’s what we do with it,” said Wallin. “Hopefully it gives our guys some confidence, but we won’t be reading too much into that. We know what our goals are where we want to get to and the guys in the room are very aware of that and they know it’s not going to be easy.”
l The Rebels conclude preseason play next week, meeting the Hurricanes Tuesday at Lethbridge, facing the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday at Lacombe and taking on the Medicine Hat Tigers 24 hours later at Stettler.
Red Deer’s regular-season opener is Sept. 24 at Edmonton. The Rebels and Oil Kings will then meet the following night at the Centrium.