It’s the dreaded first game back from an extended road trip, a game in which hockey teams at all levels historically struggle.
But when the Red Deer Rebels engage the Spokane Chiefs tonight at the Centrium in their first Western Hockey League home game in 15 days, Jesse Wallin will expect his charges to be as sharp and mentally strong as was the case in their 5-2 win over the Chilliwack Bruins last Saturday.
“It was the last game of our road trip,” said the Rebels head coach, “and everyone was tired and looking forward to getting home. We had to really bear down mentally to play our best, and really (tonight’s game) is no different.
“This is our first game at home in a while and our first game in a week, and again it comes down to mental toughness and preparation. Our players have to come to the rink with the mindset that they’re going to play hard without any excuses. The whole concept about struggling in the first game back from a trip is just a mental thing and we can’t let that be a factor.”
The Rebels have 11 wins to their credit this season, but only three have come against teams that they trail in the overall standings. With a 12-7-1-0 record heading into Friday’s game against the host Edmonton Oil Kings, the Chiefs are among those teams, but Wallin said his squad won’t approach tonight’s contest with that statistic in mind.
“We’ve always moved forward on a game-by-game basis,” he said.
“You look at your next opponent in your next game and regardless of whether it’s a first-place or a last-place team, you have to approach the game the same way. Regardless of the opponent, we have a certain way we have to play to have success and we need everyone to be on the same page.
“When we do that I think we have a chance to beat any team. The league is very tight and it’s a very fine line between the top and bottom teams. It’s just a matter of bringing your best game every night.”
The Rebels will be minus the services of rookie centre Daulton Siwak for an undetermined period of time. The Olds native took an elbow to the head in Chilliwack and later displayed symptoms of a concussion.
“He’s going through the concussion protocol right now. He hasn’t skated all week,” said Wallin.
Rookie forward Colten Mayor will take Siwak’s spot in the Red Deer lineup tonight.
l The Kelowna Rockets have claimed former Rebels forward Tyler Halliday off WHL waivers. Halliday was cut this week by the Prince George Cougars and joins captain Lucas Bloodoff and injured goaltender Mark Guggenberger as Kelowna’s overage players.