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Rebels hope to exorcise playoff demons against Blades

Red Deer will look to continue playing well against a formidable opponent
This Friday the Saskatoon Blades and the Red Deer Rebels will meet for the second time this season since their playoff series last season. (Photo by Steve Hiscock/ Saskatoon Blades)

It’s a playoff series the Red Deer Rebels will never forget.

Last year’s playoff defeat to the Saskatoon Blades still weighs heavily on their minds and understandably so.

With a 3-0 series lead in the second round of Western Hockey League playoffs, the Blades won four straight to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Saskatoon joined the 1996 Spokane Chiefs and the 2013 Kelowna Rockets as the only teams in WHL history to pull off the reverse sweep.

Since then the Rebels have only had one chance at redemption earlier this season when they welcomed the Blades to the Peavey Mart Centrium on Oct. 21.

The Rebels fell 2-1 in a nailbiter, but they hope to exorcise their playoff demons this time around.

“It’s something that you don’t forget about and lives rent-free in the back of your mind,” said Rebels captain Kai Uchacz on Thursday.

“Anytime we go up against these guys just remembering what happened with us in the playoffs last year we’ve got to use that to fire us up.

“We’ve got to play hard and try to prove that we should have maybe won that series last year.”

The two teams look much different than when they met in the playoffs and it certainly won’t be an easy game for the Rebels. The Blades are on top of the Eastern Conference standings with a 19-8-1-0 record and the Rebels are in eighth place at 13-11-0-3.

If the playoffs started today they’d be playing each other.

“They’re a really strong team,” he said. “We’ve got to come in with the mindset to outwork them in all three zones. Just keep it very simple and we’ve got to be disciplined, stay out of the penalty box, and play them five-on-five.

“If we play to our strengths, play physical, and play simple I think we’ll have some success against them.”

In the loss to the Blades at the beginning of this season, Jhett Larson tied the game in the first period after Easton Armstrong scored first for Saskatoon.

In the second period, Egor Sidorov put the Blades back on top which sealed the deal in Red Deer.

“That is definitely a game we can build off of,” Uchacz said.

“I feel like for us at the start of the year we were having more struggles of scoring goals but as of late, we have a lot more guys contributing.

“We’re finding our offence so if we can stick to our defensive structure and keep the puck out of our net… We can build off that last game.”

Red Deer has improved their game winning eight of their last 10 games since they returned from their B.C. road trip in November.

“We’ve got a winning record as of late. We’re getting production and that buy-in from the whole group so it’s good to see,” Uchacz added.

Following their matchup with the Blades, the Rebels will head to Prince Albert on Saturday to take on the Raiders at 6 p.m. Mountain time.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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