Like taking a large swig of mouthwash, the Red Deer Rebels can eliminate the sour taste in their mouths emanating from Friday’s weak performance with a home-ice victory tonight over the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Rebels were dominated by the Saskatoon Blades in a 6-3 loss to the visitors on Friday and were back at work on Saturday morning with extra emphasis placed on their defensive zone play, an area in which they were owned by the Blades.
“We need to be stronger and harder to play against in our zone. I think that’s obvious,” said Red Deer captain and veteran defenceman Colin Archer, following the morning practice session.
The Rebels can take solace in the fact that they already own a victory over the Wheat Kings, a 6-3 triumph in Brandon on Oct. 2. Another win tonight would help erase the memories of Friday’s nightmare.
“We have a chance to redeem ourselves and we have our minds set on (tonight’s) game. We beat (the Wheat Kings) once, we can do it again,” Archer insisted.
The Rebels, however, haven’t tasted success since whipping the Wheaties. Friday’s setback, in fact, was their third in succession.
“It’s frustrating because we know how we can play,” said Archer.
“We just need to get a consistent effort out of everyone. We can play with and beat the best teams in the league, and we feel that we’re one of those teams. We just have to get everyone going.”
The Rebels will again be without two of their top players, with defenceman Alex Petrovic out another month with a high ankle sprain and centre Landon Ferraro likely to miss another week with a knee injury.
The team has some depth up front this season, but can’t really afford the loss of Petrovic.
“He’s a guy who logs a lot of minutes. He’s a great player and a great guy to have on the team,” said Archer, in reference to the 17-year-old rearguard, a candidate to be nabbed in the first two rounds of next year’s NHL entry draft.
“But injuries happen. Alex is out for a while and the other guys on defence have to step up and help out with him being gone.”
Placing a little extra sense of urgency on the Rebels situation is the recent resurgence of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who moved into a fifth-place tie with Red Deer in the Central Division with Friday’s 5-2 win over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. It was the third consecutive win for the ‘Canes, who along with the Rebels possess a 3-6-0-0 record.
The Kootenay Ice, meanwhile, moved two points clear of the Rebels with a 7-3 win at Brandon.
“The points now means as much as they do at the end of the season,” said Archer. “We have to get going now.”
The Rebels have seven more home games this month, including meetings with the Portland Winterhawks and Chilliwack Bruins next Friday and Saturday.