On the shelf for almost the entire season, save for a couple of games to start, Josh Mahura was pressed right into action in the pressure cooker that is Western Hockey League playoffs.
Missing 70 games with a knee injury, Mahura worked hard all year getting the strength back to compete. And for game 1 against the Calgary Hitmen in the Rebels opening playoff series, he was in the lineup.
“I was happy we could get the win in the first series and I can be a part of it again,” said Mahura.
The 17-year-old played three games in three nights, his first back since his knee injury. He admits it was a challenge for him both physically and mentally.
“The coaches handled it very well for me and put me in a position to succeed,” said Mahura. “They watched my minutes.
“It went well though, I was happy with how it went.”
In September, in just his second game Mahura was sidelined with a torn medial collateral ligament and a partial meniscus tear, a serious injury to his left knee for the Edmonton-native. He underwent surgery in October and started his road back to the WHL ice.
In just two games this year, Mahura had an assist. A year before, he played in 51 games scoring two goals and six assists. He played in five playoff games during that 2014-15 season, registering one assist.
From the start, there was an outside chance Mahura could return in time for the Rebels post-season or potentially the Memorial Cup in May.
“Once we set a date where I wanted to be back, we made a program,” said Mahura of his rehabilitation. “As each day passed, I got closer to the ice. It got more exciting.
“With each game it feels better. It was nice to get five games in there and I feel a lot more confident.
The six foot tall defender finished the opening round win over the Calgary Hitmen a +1 plus/minus rating.
In game 2 against the Hitmen, he watched as teammate Ivan Nikolishin fell awkwardly on the end boards, hurting his leg. At the time Sutter said his injury was not good. He is out two-to-four weeks with a lower body injury.
“Knee stuff for me now is a little scary,” said Mahura. “Either way, you never want to see a teammate get an injury.”
Now he’s preparing for the Rebels next opponent, the Regina Pats.
“Even practicing more with the team now I’m feeling more confident and comfortable with my game and handling the puck,” said Mahura.
The Rebels open their series Saturday at the Centrium against the Pats. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.