OK, time is up. The Red Deer Rebels are raring to get back on the post-season trail.
“It’s weird seeing teams just finishing up last night when we’ve been sitting around for close to a week now,” said Rebels defenceman Brady Gaudet, who admitted Tuesday that the team is anxious to start their best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal versus the Calgary Hitmen.
The Rebels are restless, but they’re also thankful for the time off after sweeping the Prince Albert Raiders in a quarter-final set. And now they’re heading into a series armed with a quiet confidence.
And why not? While the Rebels were 2-4 against the Hitmen in regular-season play, just one of the six meetings — a 4-2 Calgary win — was decided by more than single goal.
“I don’t think anyone is over-thinking the Calgary series whatsoever. We all know we have a good chance of winning,” said Gaudet. “We have to go in with the mentality that we’re going to steal some games in their rink.”
The series opens Thursday and Friday at the Saddledome, then shifts back to the Centrium for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Tuesday.
The Rebels, Gaudet suggested, are in a pleasant frame of mind heading into the series.
“Coming off a sweep, obviously the guys have been pretty happy and the mood a little lighter,” he said. “But at the same time we’re getting things back up to tempo in practice so that we’re rolling going into this next series. Against Calgary, we’re going to need all cylinders going.
“We had a good practice (Monday) and we’ll continue with that today and just keep moving forward.”
The Rebels’ blueline corps, as a whole, was impressive against Prince Albert. And the club’s penalty kill — with Eastern Conference goaltender of the year Patrik Bartosak obviously playing a huge role — was lights out.
“When you look at the goals against (five in four games) . . . things were good there,” said Gaudet. “Our penalty kill (94.7 per cent efficiency) was a pretty big part of it too.
“Overall, we were pretty solid defensively. We kept things pretty simple, just kind of did our jobs and contributed (offensively) when we had chances.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt, who works closely with the defence, was duly impressed with the play of the back end.
“I thought that we kept things simple, that we didn’t over-complicate things,” he said. “Whether we were up in games or coming from behind like we did in Game 4, the guys kept things simple. They kept moving the puck and made good decisions, and this is the time of the season for that to happen.”
Gaudet, who had three assists and was a sparkling plus-4 in the quarter-final conquest, credits Truitt for improving his checking game.
“He’s been phenomenal. I’ve learned so much from him over the last few months,” said Gaudet, who was acquired from the Kamloops Blazers in October, about three weeks before Truitt arrived in Red Deer.
“He’s got such a good attitude with us, he reads us real well and he knows what to say at the proper times. It’s like he knows what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling. He’s been wonderful for us.”
Truitt shrugged off the praise, pointing out that Gaudet has done the work to make himself better.
“Brady has good offensive skills but the thing that really grabs me is how much his defensive play has improved,” said Truitt. “He’s more aware of his defensive zone and give credit to him.
“That’s a part of his game that he wanted to improve on and he’s done a real good job of that. The credit goes to him.”
l The start time for Friday’s second game won’t be determined until the Kelowna-Seattle series is complete. If Kelowna — currently down 3-2 in the Western Conference quarter-final — rallies to prevail, Shaw will televise the Kelowna-Kamloops semifinal and Rogers Sportsnet will carry Friday’s game from the Saddledome, likely with a 7:30 or 8 p.m. start.
If Seattle eliminates Kelowna, Shaw will televise the Red Deer-Calgary series and Friday’s game will commence at 7 p.m.
l Rebels/Hitmen Eastern Conference quarter-final schedule (*if necessary):
Thursday, April 4: Red Deer at Calgary, 7 p.m.; Friday, April 5: Red Deer at Calgary, time TBA,; Monday, April 8: Calgary at Red Deer, 7 p.m.; Tuesday, April 9: Calgary at Red Deer, 7 p.m.; Thursday, April 11: Red Deer at Calgary, 7 p.m.*; Saturday, April 13, Calgary at Red Deer, 7:30 p.m.*; Tuesday, April 16: Red Deer at Calgary, 7 p.m.*