Regina Pats head coach Pat Conacher — in conversation with Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post — said it best following his club’s one-sided 5-1 loss to the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday.
“That Red Deer team, I tip my hat to them. You can go out and give a valiant effort and lose the game but that game tonight I’m going to take that (as an example for his own squad). I look at that Red Deer team, their top point getter has 20 points. Not one guy is doing it or two guys or three guys, 20 guys are doing it. That’s much like what we have to put together here. It’s not pretty but it’s effective.”
And so it is that the Rebels have adopted the old all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality, a mindset that has been front and centre during the club’s eight-game winning streak.
It’s just the way they roll, or have been rolling since Brent Sutter replaced Jesse Wallin in the dual role of GM/head coach in mid-November.
With the exception of defenceman Mathew Dumba and netminder Patrik Bartosak, there are no prospective WHL all-star selections on the Rebels roster, although Medicine Hat Tigers castaway forward Ryhse Dieno will be in line for such an honour if he continues to produce at his current pace — 11 points (4g,7a) in eight games since being plucked from the Laronge Ice Wolves of the SJHL.
Captain Turner Elson leads all Red Deer scorers with 22 points (9-13), with Joel Hamilton next with 20 (2-18). The Rebels, however, have 12 players who have reached double figures in points and with Elson leading the way, have fallen in line and — as Conacher pointed out — adopted a true team philosophy.
The Rebels have been a livelier bunch with Sutter at the helm, a team that over the past three weeks has become faster and more potent offensively. They have basically been re-invented, although there’s no substitute for hard work. There’s definitely no equal for the combination of talent/effort and Sutter has elevated the club’s skill level with the recent acquisitions of Dieno and forward Filip Vasko and the earlier additions of Matt Bellerive and Brady Gaudet.
None of this is should be construed as a slight to Wallin, who is a fine coach in his own right but had apparently — for whatever reason — lost his voice with the club.
Again, for whatever reason, it wasn’t working with Wallin in charge.
With Sutter in command and newcomer Jeff Truitt and Bryce Thoma as the right-hand men, it’s working well, although the team will face a new challenge if — as expected — Bartosak is lost for the better part of a month to Team Czech Republic for the world junior championship and — quite possibly — Dumba earns a spot on the Team Canada roster.
Toss in the absence of impressive rookies Haydn Fleury and Conner Bleackley, who will play in the World Under 17 Challenge after Christmas, and the Rebels’ depth will be severely tested for an extended stretch.
For now, though, the club is thriving. And who’s to say Sutter won’t further tinker with the roster if he sees the Rebels as at least an outside contender with all hands on deck?
On the move: The Kamloops Blazers are confident they filled two needs with Thursday’s acquisition of rugged, two-day defenceman Joel Edmundson from the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Blazers, in need of toughness and a rearguard with offensive capabilities, got both qualities in Edmundson, a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2011 NHL entry draft. The Blazers also got a fourth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft while sending 18-year-old defenceman Tyler Bell, 15-year-old prospect Jayden Halbgewachs — Kamloops’ first-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft — and a first-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft to Moose Jaw. “Joel is a big, physical, two-way defenceman that will make us a harder team to play against,” said Blazers GM Craig Bonner. “The addition of Joel comes at a price, but we feel that he will solidify our defense as we enter the second half of the season.” . . . The Saskatoon Blades pulled off a pair of trades early this week involving defencemen, shipping 17-year-old Brett Lernout to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft and sending a 2014 fifth-round pick to the Prince Albert Raiders for Shayne Gwinner, 18.
Just notes: The Blades were fined $750 by the WHL head office this week for engaging in multiple fights at the conclusion of last Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Red Deer. It was the second time the team was fined for a similar incident. The first occurred during a game against the Regina Pats Nov. 9 . . . Prince George Cougars head coach Dean Clark is confident that former Rebels forward Daulton Siwak is primed to break out offensively after turning in a stellar physical performance and picking up three points — including a goal — in last weekend’s 4-3 home-ice loss to the Victoria Royals. “He had a better game which is what he needed to do,” Clark told the Prince George Citizen. “Salty’s had a little bit of a tough go and was a little frustrated, but I think tonight with the goal and a couple assists will lead to bigger and better things and more consistency.” . . . Portland Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic is the WHL player of the month for November. The 18-year-old scored nine goals and accumulated 30 points — to go along with a plus-16 rating — while picking up multiple points in all 12 games . . . Calgary Hitmen stopper Chris Driedger is the WHL goaltender of the month. The 18-year-old Winnipeg product, a third-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in June’s NHL entry draft, posted a 8-1-0-0 record in November with a 1.87 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.