Pair of Rebels hopeful to represent at World Juniors

It’s hard to find any positive news about the Red Deer Rebels these days.

Marred by a spectacular free-fall, the team has just one win in their last 16 games and nine straight losses.

So even with the good news that two players on the squad, forward Kristian Reichel, and defenceman Alex Alexeyev were named to their national team rosters for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships, the focus is at home in Red Deer.

“Everybody wants to get out of this and everybody is playing hard and trying to make the best to win some games and start rolling,” Reichel said. “We must stay simple and focus on every period and every game and try to make ourselves better.”

Reichel, the WHL rookie leader in goals (13) is a staunch believer in the ability of the group to get the job done – and the forward pointed to some recent success against teams like Regina, Victoria, and Brandon as a reason for it.

“We can beat anybody, we know that. We beat Victoria, we can beat anybody in the league but we must be a structured team and play physical,” Reichel said.

At the most the Czech Republic native will represent his country for the second straight season at the World Juniors. And after a frustrating, albeit a rewarding experience last year, he is looking forward to the opportunity again in 2017.

“It’s a big honour to play for Czech national team. Last year I was a rookie there and it was fun. We had a good team but we lost to Canada in the quarterfinals,” he said.

“I think this year we can be better and we have a better team with lots of guys who have experience with the national team. It’s a short tournament so anything can happen, but we are focused to win every game, everybody wants a medal … it will be tough.”

Alexeyev, meanwhile, was recently upgraded to an A-level prospect on the NHL Central Scouting rankings.

That means the second-year WHL defender is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, but he said the struggles for the Rebels make it hard to look forward right now.

“Really excited; it would be a great experience for me,” said Alexeyev about the chance to play for Russia.

“Right now we have games in Red Deer. Most of the guys just need to work hard and do their job.”

The six-foot-three, 200-pound defender from Russia said if he is able to crack the roster for the World Juniors, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime. He’ll attend tryouts for Russia before the tournament begins in Buffalo on Dec. 26.

Alexeyev represented Russia at the CHL Canada/Russia series last month and learned a lot there and hopes that experience will give him a leg up when he heads to world junior camp on Dec. 17.

“I’m always so happy to play for my country. It’s good. I will admit, all my buddies who I started playing with when we are kids (talk about it) so, it would be awesome,” he said.

In the meantime, the Rebels will look to turn the losing tide when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday at the Centrium.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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