As the Tri-City Americans drop into Red Deer to face the Rebels Saturday, each team finds themselves on a similar path as the WHL season winds down.
Both clubs are rebuilding and well below .500, the Rebels boasting a 20-31-2-3 mark with 12 games to play and the Americans 17-32-4-1 with 14 games remaining.
There have been small successes of late, with the Rebels grabbing wins in the last two games during a five-game swing through B.C. and the Americans defeating the Swift Current Broncos 5-1 Wednesday.
The Americans have actually faired well against the Central Division this season, with a 4-0 record. They knocked off Edmonton, Lethbridge and Calgary during a road trip in November.
With both teams essentially eliminated from playoff contention (Red Deer is 16 points back of Saskatoon for the final wild card spot), Rebels blueliner Kyle Masters said there is still a lot to play for in the final 12 games.
“We just have to play our game. We have to build our identity going into next year. Next year is going to be a big year, I think we all have expectations as a team about what we want to do,” said the rookie defenceman.
Rebels winger Josh Tarzwell leads the team with 27 goals on the year and has three in his last three games. Seventeen-year-old Centre Ben King has 10 points in his last eight games, while linemate and Rebels leading point producer Arshdeep Bains has eight points in the last eight.
Saturday marks the start of a five-game homestand for the Rebels and they will play eight of the final 12 games this season on home ice.
Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Centrium.
The Americans are 3-7-0-0 in the last 10 prior to Friday, they sit fifth in the U.S. Division and 10th in the Western Conference. Their biggest weapon is Sasha Matela, who has 24 goals and 62 points heading into Friday. Centre Connor Bouchard is the Americans second most productive player with 37 points on the campaign. In goal, Talyn Boyko and Rookie Mason Dunsford have split duties. Boyko has a 4.60 goals-against average and 0.888 save percentage, while Dunsford has a 6.33 GAA and 0.841 SV%.
Special teams: Tri-City — Power play 21 per cent prior to Friday, 13th overall; penalty kill 77.5 per cent, 14th. Red Deer — Power play 16.4 per cent, 18th overall; penalty kill 77.1 per cent, 15th.
Injuries: Tri-City — D Ian Ferguson (illness, day-to-day), C Krystof Hrabik (upper body, week-to-week), RW Dayton Bjorklund (upper body, week-to-week). Red Deer — None.