Rebels 4 Hitmen 3 (SO)
It’s been obvious during the Western Hockey League preseason that Red Deer Rebels 2009 first-round bantam draft pick defenceman Matt Dumba is ready to play in the league on a full time basis.
The only problem is he’s 15 and ineligible to play full time until next season.
“He’s absolutely one heck of a hockey player,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
“He can play any way you want him to. He’s got skill, he’s got toughness. He can move the puck and is strong defensively. He’s 15 and doesn’t look out of place against 19 and 20 year-olds.
“That must have been some (bantam) draft. I haven’t seen the three kids picked ahead of him, but if there’s three defencemen ahead of him that was a heck of draft.”
Dumba returned home to Calgary following the Rebels 4-3 shootout victory over the Calgary Hitmen in Lacombe Saturday and said he was a little disappointed to leave.
“A bit, but all I can do is go back and try to get better so that when I come back next year I can play full time,” he said.
But the chances are he’ll be back before the end of the season as all 15-year-olds are allowed to play five regular season games. They can also be called up once their minor league team has finished their season.
“They talked to me and I’ll get my five games in and once my season is over I’ll get called back if they’re still playing,” he said. “If not then I’ll wait until next year.”
Dumba will play minor hockey with the Calgary Edge school program.
“I thought about playing midget AAA with Calgary Northwest, but I’m going to school and they have a program where I can improve. It will be good for me.”
Overall Dumba was pleased with his performance during the six-game preseason schedule.
“Really happy,” he said. “I thought I moved the puck well and the coaches had positive feedback every time I came off.”
The five-foot-11, 166-pound Dumba added he learned a lot from the veterans, as well as from playing.
“The main thing I learned was that your passes have to be on the tape and you have to communicate to make it easier for the other guys and yourself.”
Dumba came into camp with the reputation of being aggressive and jumping into the play whenever he got a chance.
“I love to do that, but you have to be patient and know when to go and when to stay at home.”
With the win Saturday the Rebels finished their preseason with a 5-0-1 record. A 4-3 shootout loss to the Kootenay Ice in Innisfail Friday was the only blemish.
“I don’t think we played our best game tonight, but as I said to the guys in the room we found a way to win that’s what it’s all about,” said Wallin.
“The preseason is done and we hit the regular season Friday and you want to win hockey games. This wasn’t our best game, but we pulled it out and I’d rather play an average game and win that play great and lose.”
The Rebels started quickly when Jesse Mireau stole the puck at the Calgary blueline and went in and deked Hitmen goalie Michael Snider for a power play goal at 1:44.
However the Hitmen came back and grabbed a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Their first goal was a fluke when Rebels goaltender Kraymer Barnstable went out of his net to stop a shoot-in by Matt Mackenzie and had the puck take a wild deflection off the glass and into the open net. Former Rebel Cody Gross then notched a shorthanded marker at 17:31.
Turner Elson one-timed an Adam Kambeitz pass past Snider to even the count at 4:51 of the second period and Alex Petrovic gave Red Deer the lead at 9:24 of the third period when he put the finishing touches on a nifty four-way passing play while on the power play.
However Mackenzie Royer beat Barnstable at 15:12, once again on the power play, when his shot deflected off a defender’s stick.
Both teams had five shots in the four-on-four extra five-minute period setting the stage for the Rebels fourth shootout of the preseason.
Brett Ferguson, who has been money in the bank in the shootout so far, scored the lone goal.
Rebels finished with 30 shots on Snider while Barnstable faced 25.
The Rebels now prepare for their season opener Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrium against the Hitmen.
Prior to that Wallin has several tough decisions to make as he cuts down his roster.
“I think everything sorted themselves out for the most part, but there will be several tough decisions. It’s never easy to let someone go. There will be difficult meetings, but it’s a matter of putting the best team together for the next year and the future.”
• Wallin expects his five veterans back from pro camps by Wednesday. Landon Ferraro and Willie Coetzee are with Detroit, Justin Weller with Phoenix, Darcy Kuemper with Minnesota and Cass Mappin with Columbus.