With the news of forward Ben King out for possibly two months, it’s left the opportunity for other players to step up in his absence.
And on Wednesday night against the Victoria Royals, the squad left no doubt and answered the call with a dominant 6-2 victory.
None more so than forward Kai Uchacz who buried a rebound off a Christoffer Sedoff point shot for his team-leading eighth tally of the year to open up the scoring. He would later add his ninth goal in the middle frame. With the win, the Rebels continue their historic start to the season and improve to 11-0.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Uchacz. “All the guys are gelling together and we’ve had a lot of guys come in tonight that haven’t played in a while and stepped up. It’s much needed and we needed everyone for that win tonight.”
The Rebels were not only good on the offensive end but also on defence as they held the Royals to just 15 total shots.
“We’ve been focusing on being a good defensive team. It leads to more offence so yeah we’re coming back hard as forwards and our D-core we’re really solid back there. They’ve been doing a really good job,” Uchacz added.
Coming into the season Uchacz wanted to contribute more and he has achieved that thus far with his goal-scoring ability. During the summer he explained he worked on his shot.
“They’re going in right now and I’ve got a lot of guys supporting me right now so it’s been good,” he added.
On top of King out indefinitely, Arjun Bawa, Ollie Josephson, and Mats Lindgren were all scratched for the game. This left the door open for forwards Carson Birnie and Escalus Burlock as well as defenceman Quentin Bourne to contribute.
While on the rush Birnie did just that and picked a corner scoring his first WHL goal to put the Rebels up 2-0. With just over a minute left in the opening frame, the Royals fired one past goaltender Rhett Stoesser.
In the second period, Uchacz scored his second of the game with a beautiful snipe from an awkward side angle to put the Rebels up 3-1. He placed the shot between the goaltender’s arm and body for his ninth goal of the year. Three minutes later defenceman Matteo Fabrizi hammered his shot in from the blue line to extend their lead 4-1.
In the final frame, Red Deer put their finishing touches on the game when Dwayne Jean Jr. scored his first as a Rebel shorthanded. Sedoff, who had a burst of speed into the offensive zone on the play got his third assist of the evening. That extended his assist streak to six games.
Midway through the period, Jace Isley made it 6-1 Rebels on the powerplay for his sixth notch of the season.
With just minutes remaining in the game, the Royals scored on the powerplay for their second of the game but it wasn’t enough to beat the home team.
Stoesser, who is fresh off his first WHL shutout, made just 13 saves in the win.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said he liked his team’s mindset to start the game.
“Everybody was attempting and for the most part executing our gameplan with the puck and the systems we like to play pretty much through 60 minutes. When you do that you can create some momentum and keep it,” he said.
The bench boss gave his leadership crew of Grubbe, Uchacz, and Sedoff credit for stepping up. With a few players out Konowalchuk said it’s important to have your veterans at their best. He also gave the nod to some of the young guys who stepped up such as Birnie.
“The leaders led the way as we needed them to and the guys who wanted to get some extra minutes they played well and proved they can play extra minutes,” he added.
The Rebels are now one win away from tying the WHL record for most consecutive wins to start the year. The record of 12 wins was set by the Swift Current Broncos during the 1988-89 season.
Konowalchuk admitted they don’t focus on it too much and are focused on taking it one game at a time.
“For a couple games there when the record was here to start the season I think that kind of insprired them a bit but they’re having a lot of fun,” he explained. “They’re committed and as far as records go I don’t think that’s what it’s all about for our guys. It’s just trying to be really consistent and playing the game like it’s your last game.”