Forward Jace Isley looks for a rebound off the Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender during the home opener earlier this season. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Forward Jace Isley looks for a rebound off the Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender during the home opener earlier this season. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Rebels break WHL record with 13 consecutive wins to start season

Rebels beat Oil Kings 7-2

Rebels 7 Oil Kings 2

The Red Deer Rebels have etched themselves into the Western Hockey League (WHL) record books after a 13-0 start to the season.

Red Deer knocked off the Edmonton Oil Kings 7-2 Sunday afternoon at Rogers Place and with the victory, are now the first team in the modern era (1978 to present) to begin a season with 13 consecutive wins. The previous record of 12 was set by the Swift Current Broncos in the 1988-89 season.

Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk said the record came into sight for his team a few games ago and they put a focus on achieving it.

“I’m just so happy with the team effort,” Konowalchuk said.

“It’s not Ben King, it’s not Sedoff, and it’s not Grubbe – it’s everybody. They’re all good players when they’re in the lineup but we started this with guys out of the lineup because they were in NHL camps.

“Other guys have stepped up like [Escalus] Burlock, [Carson] Birnie, Josephson, and Brigley. It’s such an important message for our team that it’s about the team and everybody just playing for one another. It’s been a whatever it takes mentality.”

On Sunday, the Rebels went down 1-0 early after Oil Kings forward Cole Miller found the back of the net.

Rebels defenceman Hunter Mayo scored with a rocket to tie things up at one apiece. Edmonton answered back two minutes later on the powerplay scored by Carson Golder.

The Rebels took control from there after forward Kai Uchacz scored at the 15-minute mark. Uchacz has a team-leading 11 goals to start the season and is second in the WHL behind Regina Pats star Connor Bedard.

The second period was owned by Red Deer after defenceman Christoffer Sedoff, forward Escalus Burlock, and forward Craig Armstrong all scored their first goals of the 2022-23 campaign. Mayo also added his second goal of the game and his sixth of the year midway through the period. With 20 seconds left in the middle frame, forward Frantisek Formanek with his first goal since the home opener a month ago, which would be the last goal of the night before a scoreless third period.

Konowalchuk said he was happy with his team’s resilient effort despite taking 12 penalties in the game. However, the Rebels special teams units answered the call and only allowed Edmonton to score a single goal on the powerplay. Red Deer scored twice on five powerplay opportunities.

“We played more than a whole period of minor penalties so special teams were obviously really good. We got down because of the penalty early, but we battled hard and our guys played hard for one another and I’m proud of them,” Konowalchuk said.

Rookie goaltender Rhett Stoesser made 23 saves in the high-scoring affair, including a stretched-out glove save on a five-on-three penalty kill.

“We had two goaltenders come into the season that had never played a WHL game and they’ve jumped right in and have proved to the team and themselves that they belong… It’s impressive,” he said.

Sunday’s game was the beginning of a nine-game road trip for the Rebels. They play again next Friday in Swift Current against the Broncos at 7 p.m. before heading to Moose Jaw on Saturday against the Warriors.

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