Like a Broadway understudy, Bolton Pouliot has moved into a leading role with Red Deer Rebels No. 1 goaltender Patrik Bartosak gone for a month.
Pouliot, who hasn’t played since early November due to Bartosak and the Rebels riding a hot streak, will get the start tonight against the visiting Calgary Hitmen. Spencer Tremblay, brought in last month, will be in a back-up role.
“Bolton will go tomorrow, then we’ll make a decision on the weekend. It will be a game-by-game decision,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday. “Both guys are ready to go, but I think Bolton is the right answer for now and we’ll go from there.”
In the absence of Bartosak, who has departed for the Czech Republic and will almost certainly suit up for his home country in the upcoming world junior championship, the challenge for both Pouliot and Tremblay will be to keep the ball rolling. The Rebels’ lengthy winning streak was snapped at nine games in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss at Brandon.
“It’s a good opportunity for both of them to step up and show what they are, and we’re going to need them,” said Sutter. “Any successful team has good goaltending and that’s part of the reason we’ve had success. Not only has our team played well, but our goaltending has been strong.”
Pouliot sported nifty numbers in late October with a 2.87 goals-against average and .913 save percentage, but his stats swelled over the next few weeks and his current digits are 3.73 and .891.
He hasn’t seen any game action since splitting duties with Bartosak in an 8-1 loss at Kelowna Nov. 9.
“It’s been awhile. It will be nice to get back in there, get into a groove and have some fun,” said Pouliot, just prior to Tuesday’s practice session at the Centrium.
Pouliot said he’s remained focused and ready to go throughout his lengthy stretch as Bartosak’s caddy.
“It’s part of the game. Patty has been playing great and it’s been my job to just keep pushing in practice and stay positive,” said Pouliot. “The team is playing unbelievable right now, everybody is having an awesome time and having fun, and that’s all that counts.
“It’s up to Spencer and myself to help the team keep building off what’s been happening lately.”
Pouliot knows he’ll have to find his early-season form if he wants to help his club and become a go-to guy in Bartosak’s absence.
“I have to get back to that, to that beginning stage,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Rebels will be without the services of forwards Filip Vasko, Cory Millette and Jesse Miller tonight. Miller has been out of commission since late November with an upper body injury, while Vasko (knee sprain) and Millette (60-stitch laceration) were injured on Red Deer’s three-game road trip last week.
As a result, the Rebels have summoned 15-year-old forward Adam Musil from the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the B.C. Major Midget League and the club’s first-round pick in this year’s bantam draft will be in the lineup tonight. Musil has scored nine goals and garnered 22 points in 17 games with his midget team.
“This will be a good opportunity for him to come in and play,” said Sutter. “He’s had a pretty good season to date. He’s our first-round pick and a really good player, now he can get some experience at this level.
“We’ll take it game to game with Adam, whether it’s one game or two or three.”
Defenceman Brandon Underwood is slated to play tonight after missing Saturday’s loss at Brandon with a sore wrist.
The Rebels will host the Victoria Royals and Kelowna Rockets Friday and Saturday and will entertain the Kootenay Ice next Tuesday before breaking for Christmas.