Rebels 3 Hitmen 0 (preseason)
Even if he was perfect, Chase Coward likes to stay humble.
The Red Deer Rebels netminder was indeed perfect in his first taste of the WHL preseason Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium against the Calgary Hitmen.
Coward was stellar in his first game action since last spring when he finished the season with a 42-save performance against the same Hitmen squad.
He turned aside 34 shots in the shutout Friday, but the 18-year-old from Swift Current, Sask. was quick to credit the work of his teammates.
“First period was a little shaky on my end but the boys kinda picked me up,” said Coward, who made 13 saves in the opening frame.
“All throughout the game, there were some huge blocks that could have went in if it wasn’t blocked. I’m thankful for the guys for helping me out and getting the big win.”
An offensive burst in the second period was all the Rebels needed to top the Hitmen.
Kai Uchacz opened the scoring for the Rebels with a laser off the rush midway through the second period. After Jace Isley made it 2-0, Uchacz punched in his second of the night and fourth point of the preseason.
The 18-year-old Calgary product was acquired by the Rebels in the offseason from the Seattle Thunderbirds.
That push in the middle frame drew positive reviews from head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“Very energetic (game). I’m happy with the way the guys played. I thought the second period, some of the things they’ve been trying to work on in practice, they were executing,” he said.
“They were playing hard and playing with purpose, I thought the second period for a coach was fun to watch and we want to build off that and try to get even better.”
Coward stopped 14 shots in the second and another seven in the third to close out the victory.
“He was good, absolutely. Made the saves he needed to. Made some big saves. There were some good blocked shots in front of him as well,” Konowalchuck said.
Although it was by no means a packed house for the first preseason game at the Centrium, Coward said it was a stark contrast to any appearance he made last year, when fans weren’t allowed into WHL arenas.
“I try not to notice the fans too much, but it was definitely different- especially when we scored goals. It’s not just the boys going crazy on the bench,” he said.
“There’s actually people cheering. You make a save, people are cheering. Looking up and there’s actually faces, it’s so nice. It was great to have fans back.”
The Rebels are on the road next weekend to take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday night. Red Deer will play its final preseason game on Sept. 25 at the Peavey Mart Centrium.