On the final weekend of the Western Hockey League regular season, Red Deer Rebels Kai Uchacz scored his 50th goal.
It was a massive career milestone for the 19-year-old who secured himself a spot as one of only six players in franchise history to reach the 50-goal mark. The most recent player to do so was forward Ben King who scored 52 last season.
“I was pretty excited and I couldn’t thank my teammates enough for finding me in the slot and for what they’ve done for me all year to help me out. It’s been good,” Uchacz said.
As the Rebels enter the playoffs they’re hoping for more of that from Uchacz and the rest of the team. They’ll match up against the Calgary Hitmen beginning Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
The Hitmen are a familiar foe, especially in the playoffs where they’ve met six times in league history. Most recently in 2016 where the Rebels won in five games.
This season they played each other eight times with Red Deer coming away with six victories in the regular season. Most recently the Rebels beat Calgary at the Saddledome 9-0 on March 11.
“They’re a great team, they work hard, play a fast game, and a pretty honest game. We’re going to have to be ready for what they bring and I’m excited. It’s going to be a really good series,” Uchacz added.
“That last weekend was a good tune-up for us and we’ll have to play with that speed, intensity, compete, and just stick together and work really hard.”
Red Deer could potentially be without forward Ben King who missed the final two games of the regular season. He’s listed as day-to-day and will know more as they get closer to game day.
The Rebels plan on not thinking too much about the 9-0 win on March 11 because other than that particular victory the season series between the Central Division rivals was pretty close. Three of the eight games went to overtime including a 4-3 loss on March 10 at home to Calgary.
“You never know with games like that. They might not have been on their best game but like I said we know they’re a good team and we’ve got to prepare for their best performances,” Uchacz said.
There’s also certainly no love lost between the two clubs.
In most games between the Rebels and Hitmen, there is plenty of hitting and scraps between the whistles. Red Deer plays a physical game on a regular basis and the Hitmen can be quite pesky as well.
“They like to finish checks and they play that in-your-face style of game. It’s something we’ve been preparing for all year. We like to play that heavy style game too so I think it’s going to be a good series,” Uchacz said.
Captain Jayden Grubbe echoed Uchacz’s comments.
“I think just being a team you play a lot in the year you’re going to get into it with them. They play hard so that’s just part of it being a rivalry team you’re going to get into it once and a while so it’ll be fun,” Grubbe said.
Grubbe added they’re counting down the days until the start of the series.
“They work hard and they’re a good team so we’re expecting their best game and we’re going to have to play our best to beat them,” he said.
Grubbe explained his message to the team is to take it game by game and shift by shift.
“You can’t look too far ahead and get overwhelmed over anything. You’ve just got to be able to reset after every shift and after every game. It can be a long story but you’ve got to have fun with it too,” he said.