He’s not the guy with the glittery resume and/or the impressive stats line.
Instead, Cody Thiel is a true tradesman as a Western Hockey League player who knows and embraces his role.
“I feel that our job is to play hard all the time and create energy for the top guys,” the Red Deer Rebels fourth-line winger said Thursday at the Centrium, where the club prepared for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. match with the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Thiel has not only provided a physical spark, but has also contributed offensively during the last two games, scoring his fourth goal of the season in Tuesday’s 6-4 win over the visiting Kootenay Ice and adding his first assist in a 4-0 win at Lethbridge Wednesday.
“It feels great, I haven’t really chipped in that much all year,” he said. “But we seem to be getting more ice time now as the season is winding down and we’re preparing for the playoffs.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt is thankful for Thiel’s two-way contributions.
“He’s a bigger body, he adds that physical presence,” said Truitt. “Throughout the year he hasn’t been rewarded on some of the scoring chances he’s had . . . he’s had some chances now and then, including a few goal posts. It’s nice to see him get on the scoresheet.
“In order to be an effective team you need 12 guys up front going hard. Their roles might be a little bit different and Cody is getting in on the forecheck, he’s taking the body and he’s playing well in his own zone. He has to keep it simple and he’s done that very well. The offensive points are a bonus.”
With Thiel, Cory Millette and Christian Stockl skating on the fourth line, the Rebels have emerged victorious in each of their last three outings and have moved six points clear of the Prince Albert Raiders in the battle for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“You can sense the confidence in the team every day when we come to the rink,” said Thiel. “We’re confident that we’re going to win. We have that attitude, that swagger.
“Now we have to make sure we don’t let up. We have to play every game now like it’s going to be our last.”
Thiel cracked the Rebels lineup as an unheralded camp invite in the fall of 2011. He originally filled a spot on the blueline, but was eventually moved up front and has played as a forward almost exclusively during his second WHL season.
“It’s been great,” insisted the six-foot-three, 180-pound product of Bruno, Sask. “I wouldn’t want to play with any other WHL team, I’m thankful to the coaches here for giving me a shot up front. I feel that I’ve taken the opportunity I’ve been given and ran with it.”
Thiel will likely be in tough to make the club as a 20-year-old next fall, but he’s hoping his ability to play strong, effective minutes will earn him another look.
“Even if I’m a fourth-line grinder, this is where I want to be,” he said.
l Defenceman Devan Fafard, who was run into the boards at Lethbridge Wednesday and required facial stitches, was re-examined Thursday and is listed as day-to-day . . . The Rebels are in Calgary Sunday to face the Hitmen, then close out their regular-season schedule with a home-and-home series with the Edmonton Oil Kings March 15-16.