Pair of stiff tests await Red Deer Rebels this weekend

It hasn’t been pretty this season when the Red Deer Rebels have lined up with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

In the last two meetings particularly, a 4-2 loss and an 11-2 beatdown, left nightmares in the minds of the Rebels.

Friday in Lethbridge will be the first of just two games in 2020 between the WHL Central Division foes. That game will also be the first of this calendar year for Dylan Cozens and Calen Addison, who won gold with Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic earlier this month. It will mark the first time former Rebel Brett Davis faces his old mates, after being dealt to the Hurricanes for a fourth-round pick in 2021 on Jan. 6.

It doesn’t get any easier from there for the Rebels, as they welcome the Prince Albert Raiders to town. Red Deer has had considerable success against the Raiders this year, winning twice, in Prince Albert. At the Centrium against the Raiders, it was the visitors who reigned supreme with a 7-1 drubbing in Nov.

“It’s going to be two good tests for us, with Lethbridge and Prince Albert. Really for our team, it is keep on focusing on learning from everything we have in the past couple of months,” said Rebels alternate captain Chris Douglas.

“Recently, that Winnipeg game was a little bit of a setback for us. Obviously, losing (Dawson Barteaux) was a tough thing for our team, especially for me, I’ve been friends with him for a lot of years. Really just keep on that same path. We’ve displayed that we can do it, I don’t care that we’re one of the youngest teams in the league. We just have to keep pushing.”

Douglas referenced a rough stretch recently, as Red Deer has lost three games in a row, by a combined score of 16-2. But before that, there was some good, a 6-2 win over the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips and a 6-5 overtime win against the Raiders.

It’s that inconsistency from game-to-game that assistant coach Ryan Colville thinks his team needs to correct in the final 27 contests.

“Consistency, that was a big theme this week. I thought the road trip we played really well against P.A., then had a huge drop off against Saskatoon, then played really well against Brandon then a drop against Winnipeg,” Colville said.

“It’s a young group that’s got younger now. We can’t use that as an excuse anymore. We’re in January. We’ve got to find a way to get everyone going, every single night. We’ve shown we can play with everybody, we’ve just got to do it every night.”

The Rebels currently have a 14-23-1-3 record and are nine points back of the Saskatoon Blades for the final WHL Eastern Conference wild card spot.

After the Barteaux trade, the Rebels have just six defencemen on the roster, Ethan Sakowich, Mason Ward, Joel Sexsmith, Chase Leslie, Blake Gustafsson and Christoffer Sedoff. Kyle Masters is still listed as out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. They also only have 12 forwards listed on the roster heading into Friday night’s contest with the Hurricanes.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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