It’s time to make hay.
With eight home dates on their October Western Hockey League slate, the Red Deer Rebels are being presented with an opportunity to string together at least a handful of victories and rebound from their 3-5 start, and there’s no time like the present to make a statement.
“This weekend is huge for us,” Rebels overage forward Jordie Deagle said on Thursday, looking ahead to tonight’s 7:30 p.m. clash with the Saskatoon Blades and Sunday’s 6 p.m. meeting with the Brandon Wheat Kings. “This is a great chance for the team to really take off and get some of the points we lost the last couple of weeks and really take a run for where we should be in the standings.”
Following last Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Swift Current which concluded a 1-3 road trip, Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin admitted he was unhappy with the play of some of his veterans this season. He didn’t back off on Thursday, although he said the problems are more mental than physical.
“I think it comes down to just the little details and bearing down at key times and taking care of key details . . . not making mental mistakes and not being soft one-on-one,” said the Rebels bench boss. “It’s about bearing down and embracing that leadership role and playing at the level they are capable of playing at.”
With the parity in the entire Eastern Conference this season, Wallin knows that his team has no time to waste.
“It just seems that every game is a big game,” he said. “Tomorrow’s game is the first game of a homestand and we have to be ready to go right off the hop. That’s going to be the message today (in practice) . . . that we can’t ease into the game, that we want to set the tone early.
“Saskatoon is coming in off a good win (8-4 over the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday) so we’re going to need a good start and a solid effort for 60 minutes.”
The Rebels will be looking to build on their special teams play this weekend. The Rebels’ power play, in particular, has been impressive this season, with the club’s 23.1 per cent success rate being the ninth best in the league, but the penalty kill — at 76.2 per cent, 17th overall — is still a sore spot.
“The penalty kill numbers aren’t where we’d like to see them, but again, it comes down to making those key mistakes,” said Wallin. “When guys can eliminate those mistakes and do the little details properly, those numbers will come up.
“I think our players are feeling some confidence in both of our special teams, which is important. You need your special teams to be good for you, for sure.”