As the Red Deer Rebels have revved up their game in recent weeks, Brooks Maxwell has been right on board.
“No question. He’s played really well,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Thursday. “He’s a really good player. He’s smart, he’s a good skater, he makes plays and he’s playing with confidence now.”
After a promising rookie season in which he scored six goals and garnered 21 points in 54 games, Maxwell seemed to be in a state of regression early in his sophomore campaign. But since Sutter’s arrival as head coach in mid-November and his adoption of a more wide-open style of play, the Raymond native has clearly been a better player.
“I’ve stepped up my game from earlier. I’ve played some good hockey lately as has the entire team,” said the 18-year-old. “We’re kind of playing on the edge now, we’re up on our toes and going after teams instead of sitting back. That’s been our mindset lately.”
Maxwell has certainly been given every opportunity to improve as the centre on the Rebels’ top line with wingers Rhyse Dieno and captain Turner Elson.
“Those two (Turner and Dieno) are really skilled guys. They’re great guys and they’ve been great linemates,” said Maxwell.
“We’ve built some chemistry and that’s shown over the last 11 games or so.”
The only downside to Maxwells re-emergence is his lack of offensive production, although his overall game has been better. He currently sits with 10 points (2-8) through 34 outings heading into tonight’s meeting with the visiting Victoria Royals.
“You want to score more and help the team that way. I haven’t been doing that but other aspects of my game have developed and that’s always good,” he said. “Hopefully the goals will come.”
“Sure, we’d like him to find his niche and get more offence out of him, but the biggest thing for him is just getting him to settle in and allowing him to be the player he wants to be,” said Sutter.
“We’re not moving him all over the map, where he’s playing all forward positions.
“If he has a bad game he’s not being moved from one line to another. You don’t build confidence that way. It’s about allowing guys to grow and settle in.
“That’s really important, and I think he’s more settled now as a player. He knows that if he makes a mistake or if certain things happen, that he isn’t going to be demoted because of it . . . that he can fight through it and grow through it.”
After winning nine in a row and losing their next game 5-4 in overtime last weekend at Brandon, the Rebels suffered their first regulation-time loss under Sutter’s watch — 2-1 to the visiting Calgary Hitmen Wednesday.
The Rebels coughed up goals 26 seconds apart in the setback and probably deserved a better fate. They clearly weren’t out-played by the Hitmen, who are ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation.
“We took strides in that game, confidence-wise,” said Maxwell “Calgary has a great team, but we were missing two high-end guys and still were right there with them. It’s just too bad we couldn’t squeak it out.”