Rebels ready to embrace underdog role against Hurricanes

The WHL standings tell a story that is not friendly to the Red Deer Rebels, and they’re fine with that.

On paper, Red Deer doesn’t look like they have any hope in their first round playoff series against a Lethbridge Hurricanes team that finished 22 points above them in central division.

“We’re certainly going in as underdogs when there’s a 20-something point difference,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.

“(The) playoffs are a whole new season. I really like they way we were playing for about two-and-a-half to three weeks. I thought we were playing more playoff-type hockey. Our responsibilities were a lot better with how to play without the puck. I thought we generated enough offence to score goals. We were getting good goaltending; it was the best our defence played all year.”

That playoff-type hockey Sutter referenced likely included two crucial wins in the final week of the season when Red Deer beat Medicine Hat on the road and followed that with a home win against Calgary.

Both Red Deer and Lethbridge dropped their final two games of the regular season.

The Hurricanes did beat the Rebels in four out of five games this year, with the last one a 7-3 defeat in Red Deer on Feb. 8.

Sutter insists that’s not on the minds of the players, only the blank slate playoffs provide.

“Now we have to make sure we’re ready to go for Saturday. It’s a different season,” Sutter said.

“The level of play obviously cranks up and the intensity cranks up. You’re playing for keeps now.”

It’ll be a tall task for the Rebels to stop the blazing offence of the Hurricanes, a team that had 280 goals in 72 games this year and had three forwards with 35 goals or more. That will be especially tricky for a Rebels blueline that has just 54 playoff games played between seven players.

That experience largely comes from 21-year-old veteran Colton Bobyk (23 playoff games) and 19-year-old Brandon Schuldhaus (18 playoff games).

“We have to continue to play a good solid team game,” Sutter said.

“We have to be smart with the puck. We have to be smart without it and how we manage the ice and making sure that we’re doing the details the right way. Things you work on all year, things that were encouraging the last three weeks.”

Up front the Rebels have a lot more experience, with Evan Polei, Brandon Hagel, Michael Spacek, Austin Pratt back from last years’ Memorial Cup squad.

They also added 18-year-old Lane Zablocki who squared off against those same Rebels in a gruelling seven-game second round series last year.

Add into the mix Austin Glover, 21, who will play his final WHL game at some point in these playoffs and has suited up for 224 in his career, the Rebels look deeper than at first glance. Glover came to town with hopes of a deep playoff run and he thinks the Rebels have the experience necessary to keep it close with the Hurricanes.

“Lately I think we’ve been playing really good. You can’t really flip a switch and go into the playoffs and change your game,” Glover said.

“I think we have pretty good depth. We can roll our lines so when it gets down the stretch I think we’ll be conditioned pretty well.”

In their forward group, the Rebels have 103 playoff games between them, compared to the Hurricanes with only 72.

Puck drops to open the series on March 25 in Lethbridge, with game two Sunday before it returns to Red Deer on Wednesday, March 29.

“There’s no hidden secrets between their team and our team, it’s a divisional game,” Sutter said. “We know each other well enough, so hopefully we learned a lot about how we need to play and I’m sure they’re sitting there saying the same thing.”

Just Posted

Trial: Red Deer RCMP officer accused of asking prisoner to lift up her top

A woman who has accused a Red Deer RCMP officer of urging… Continue reading

Former principals, staff and students celebrate 50 years of Westpark Middle School

In the mid-1970s, Paul Gowans became principal at Westpark Middle School, and… Continue reading

Central Alberta MPs seek stiffer punishment for rural crimes

Bill C-458 was tabled Friday, and proposes to amend the Criminal Code to account for rural residents

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion gets second green light from Ottawa

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is giving the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

WATCH: New RDC president has three decades of experience working at colleges and universities

Peter Nunoda says he’s ‘excited’ to help transition the college into a university

Blair says more gun-control action needed, signals no new steps before election

OTTAWA — Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair says more must be done… Continue reading

Pricey tours of decaying Titanic shipwreck delayed until June 2020

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Adventure tourists who paid $168,000 each to help… Continue reading

Police searching for suspect after shooting at Toronto Raptors rally

Toronto police are still looking for a suspect after Monday’s shooting that… Continue reading

The corporate winners and losers from the Toronto Raptors’ historic win

We The North mania spread across Canada as the Toronto Raptors created… Continue reading

Efforts continue to raise profile of New Brunswick sprint champion from 1900s

HALIFAX — A New Brunswick sprinter who achieved world-class success in the… Continue reading

Campaign to eradicate rodents puts other animals at risk

The bird was a female cardinal. It was on the ground and… Continue reading

Opinion: Throwing cold water on fee for calling firefighters

There’s never any upside to adversity. Whether it’s the loss of a… Continue reading

‘This is our story:’ Winnipeg General Strike commemorated on screen, stage

WINNIPEG — A moment in history that changed Canada forever is headed… Continue reading

Most Read