And the beat goes on.
Make that beat down.
Yet another player was added to the Red Deer Rebels lengthy injury list Saturday when forward Joel Hamilton was checked into the boards at the players bench in the first period of an 8-5 WHL loss to the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors and never returned.
Hamilton was taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital and x-rays revealed a fracture of the L1 and L2 vertebrae.
Hamilton stayed on the bench for the remainder of the game after it became apparent that he was in too much pain to be helped to the dressing room. Paramedics attended to the rookie forward at the conclusion of the contest and administered morphine intravenously before placing him on a backboard.
“He’ll be out a minimum of four weeks. The doctors expect him to make a full recovery and he’ll certainly be able to return to play at some point,” Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin said Sunday.
The check caused Hamilton to bend over the boards in an awkward fashion. His back was hyper-extended and also struck the glass between the players benches.
The news regarding an injury to Cory Millette — which also caused him to miss much of the game — was clearly better. Millette blocked a shot with the top of his foot and x-rays proved negative.
The rookie forward suffered a severe bruise and is listed as day-to-day.
“He’ll make the trip with us and hopefully he’ll be able to play right away,” said Wallin, in reference to Red Deer’s four-game B.C. Division jaunt starting Wednesday at Prince George.
Hamilton joins seven teammates in the infirmary. Two players — Justin Weller, Patrik Bartosak — are done for the season, with three more — Adam Kambeitz, Aaron Borejko and Colten Mayor — out indefinitely.
“It’s been unbelievable, just one thing after another,” said Wallin. “This is starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s out of our control and we just have to continue pushing forward and forging ahead.
“The guys who are playing have to keep pushing for us and the guys out of the lineup have to continue to support their teammates and continue to work to get better. We’re still in this thing together.”
Despite being severely short-handed, the Rebels have not been lacking in work ethic. But a lack of bodies has resulted in a multitude of mistakes as was the case when the Warriors struck for six second-period goals Saturday.
“More than anything we just made some mental mistakes and looked like a hockey team that has been under-manned for awhile,” said Wallin. “The first thing that goes when you get worn down is your mental aspect of the game and I thought we made some mental mistakes. The effort was there but we made some uncharacteristic mistakes in the defensive zone, turnovers and miscues where we were just reaching for the puck and didn’t keep our feet moving.
“We had a tough second period and there were some mistakes made. You don’t want to let guys off the hook and yet, with our injury situation, you have to be realistic as well. I want to see our players continue to work and push and I think they’ve done that.”
Wallin was impressed with his club’s spirited third-period performance.
“In the third period we got down to eight forwards (with the loss of Cory Millette which followed Hamilton’s exit). It’s a tough league to play in when you’re rolling eight forwards but the guys gave a good effort,” said the Rebels bench boss.
“It was a 6-5 game in the third and we had three two-on-one breaks and another couple of net drives where we certainly had enough opportunities to get it tied up. It didn’t work for us tonight but I’m proud of the way the guys dug in and battled and stuck to the game plan.”
The Warriors got two goals from Justin Kirsch and singles from Cam Braes, Torrin White, Quinton Howden, Kendall McFaull, James Henry and Sam Fioretti, who scored into an empty net with 79 seconds remaining.
Hamilton and Brooks Maxwell staked Red Deer to a 2-0 lead after one period and Cody Thiel, with his first-ever WHL goal, Charles Inglis and Turner Elson connected in the middle frame. Deven Dubyk made 33 saves in a losing effort while the Rebels aimed 31 shots at the Moose Jaw tandem of Luke Siemens and Spencer Tremblay, who entered at the start of the third period.
“You have to give them (Warriors) credit as well, they’re a good hockey team and they really came at us in the second period,” said Wallin. “They did a good job of challenging us and putting us back on our heels.
“They have a lot of speed on their team. They hit our blueline and threw a lot of pucks to the net and were driving our defencemen back. A good team played a good game tonight and it was a battle to the finish.”
While the Rebels remain four points back of eighth-place Brandon in the Eastern Conference, the Warriors sit second, five points behind Edmonton.
“We picked up some key players (Braes and Henry) at the deadline and they’ve made a difference for our team,” said Howden, who added two assists Saturday and was named first star of the game.
It’s almost now or never for Moose Jaw, which will lose a large volume of top-end players at the end of the season.
“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for awhile. For some of us this is our last kick at the can,” said Howden. “We’ve gone through some tough years to get to a season like this so we have to keep playing like we are and make the most of it.”
The Rebels depart this season and will travel through the night en route to Prince George.