Array

Smart play instead of points

After showing his offensive prowess with a 13-point rookie season from the Red Deer Rebels’ back end, Austin Strand had to envision himself improving on those numbers this winter. But as a member of the Rebels’ third blueline pairing, Strand hasn’t seen a lot of power play time and after finding the back of the opposition net on four occasions last season, he didn’t score his first goal of the current campaign until Jan. 20, in a 6-1 win over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.

After showing his offensive prowess with a 13-point rookie season from the Red Deer Rebels’ back end, Austin Strand had to envision himself improving on those numbers this winter.

But as a member of the Rebels’ third blueline pairing, Strand hasn’t seen a lot of power play time and after finding the back of the opposition net on four occasions last season, he didn’t score his first goal of the current campaign until Jan. 20, in a 6-1 win over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.

“The points haven’t been coming but I got my first goal recently and that was nice,” the 18-year-old defenceman said Thursday.

Not that having an occasional presence on the official scoresheet is of much importance to the Calgary native, whose primary duties revolve around keeping opposition forwards away from his goaltender and getting the puck up ice to the teammates who are expected to supply most of the offence.

The two Austins — Strand and Shmoorkoff — have quietly bonded into a reliable five-six defensive pairing, with both players having shown more consistency over the past two months.

“With me and Shmoo … our chemistry is coming along, we’re getting that together,” said the six-foot-four, 194-pound Strand. “We’ve been working on certain things with Truey (associate coach Jeff Truitt) and Lodgey (assistant coach Erik Lodge) after practice.”

Finding consistency is the secret to success for any defenceman and Strand has discovered a pre-game procedure that has helped him in that department.

“With me I think it’s mostly about focus,” he said. “I’ve found a new pre-game routine that I like in terms of focusing. Before the game I’ll just visualize a lot more and I’ve found that it has helped with avoiding those little hiccups.

“Being more consistent out there is definitely something I worked on last season and I think I’ve been better that way this year.”

Truitt has taken notice of the improved uniformity and overall development in Strand’s game.

“He’s not a player who you’re going to see huge improvements from at one time, but it’s a lot of little things along the way that he’s doing better than last year,” said Truitt.

“For him, in his role, he just needs to win shifts, but he’s got some sneaky offence which he proved last year. He has those types of capabilities, but he’s more a guy who just kind of quietly does his job. Sometimes mistakes are made but he does a lot of little things well, and you need those kinds of guys. They’re a big part of your program.”

Truitt, noting the growth in his confidence and passing ability and the fact he also performs with a physical edge, feels that Shmoorkoff has improved more than any Red Deer player from the start of the season.

Thus, he and Strand have provided the coaching staff with the confidence that the duo can play bigger minutes, if necessary.

“The nice thing about those two guys is that if any one of our top four (defencemen) goes down or is in the penalty box, we can throw those guys up against the other team’s second and third lines. We’re not afraid of doing that,” said Truitt. “They are great complementary players who have improved little by little as the season has gone along.”

Strand was ranked by Central Scouting last season but wasn’t selected in the NHL entry draft.

“It kind of shows that the rankings don’t really mean anything,” he said.

So far, his name hasn’t appeared on the 2015-16 Central Scouting list. Ironically, he might be appealing to an NHL team when this year’s draft rolls round.

“If I have a good second half of the season, a good playoff run and strong Memorial Cup showing, (getting drafted) might be a possibility,” said Strand.

Selected by the Rebels in the third round — 48th overall — of the 2012 WHL bantam draft, Strand is confident the team can put together a lengthy post-season stretch leading into the Memorial Cup tournament which Red Deer will host in May.

“It’s exciting to think about the potential here,” he said. “We haven’t had the full team together because of guys getting hurt, and now Bleacks (forward Conner Bleackley) is out of the lineup (for six weeks with a knee injury).

“We should have all the guys back at the right time. We should have a great team then and I’m looking forward to that.”

• The Rebels close out a five-game homestand this weekend, taking on the Kootenay Ice tonight and facing the Brandon Wheat Kings Saturday.

Just Posted

Shipping oil by rail questioned

Red Deer-area mayors respond

Country star Gord Bamford and The Reclaws perform free Games concert Friday

Show starts at 6:30 p.m. in heated dome off Celebration Plaza in downtown Red Deer

Survey looks at social isolation among older men

Partnership between Red Deer College and Golden Circle Resource Centre

Peruvian brothers travel nearly 8,000 km to volunteer at Canada Winter Games in Red Deer

Italo and Mirko Del Castillo say Canadian warmth contrasts with twinter cold

Pride Days celebrated for first time at Canada Winter Games on Feb. 21 and 28

Pride Days are another first for Red Deer’s 2019 Canada Winter Games.… Continue reading

Gardening: What are you planting in 2019?

What’s new in plants for 2019? Checking catalogues, greenhouses and stores will… Continue reading

Opinion: I spy another energy hypocrite

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The mittens provided to… Continue reading

Canada’s bobsleigh team races World Cup on Calgary home track facing closure

CALGARY — Canada’s skeleton and bobsled teams will race a World Cup… Continue reading

Italy becomes ninth international football league to join forces with CFL

TORONTO — Add Italy to the growing list of international football federations… Continue reading

Toronto Defiant Overwatch academy team to be known as the Montreal Rebellion

MONTREAL — The Toronto Defiant’s Overwatch academy team will be known as… Continue reading

Canadian fashion and design insiders recall Karl Lagerfeld’s charm, ingenuity

TORONTO — Several Canadian fashion and design experts who knew couture icon… Continue reading

Millennial Money: Make your funds move at the speed of life

Change is constant — especially when you’re young. Chances are you’ll cycle… Continue reading

TSB says improved tankers involved in Manitoba derailment that spilled crude

ST. LAZARE, Man. — Federal investigators say CN rail cars that spilled… Continue reading

Most Read