The Red Deer Rebels celebrate Jayden Grubbe’s first goal of the 2020-21 WHL season. Friday was the Rebels’ home opener and the first game of the shortened 24-game season, which will include only Alberta teams. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

The Red Deer Rebels celebrate Jayden Grubbe’s first goal of the 2020-21 WHL season. Friday was the Rebels’ home opener and the first game of the shortened 24-game season, which will include only Alberta teams. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

Rebels seek consistency ahead of matchup with Hitmen

The Red Deer Rebels had to deal with a pang of regret this week after consistency escaped them for a matter of minutes in the team’s first two games.

That absence and lack of attention to detail was a tough pill to swallow, considering the timing.

The Rebels lost 5-4 in overtime Friday, after holding a 4-1 lead through nearly 50 minutes. In Saturday’s 7-2 loss, Red Deer fell behind 4-0 in the opening 13:07 of the game and never recovered.

Defenceman Chase Leslie was front and centre for the implosion in both games and knows the team is capable of more than they showed.

“It’s all about playing 60 minutes for us. Even in both games, I know the score was a lot more lopsided on Saturday. We did play good minutes in that game,” he said.

“I think for us, we can’t let off for 10 or 12 minutes and let a team come back like that. In this league, that happens quick and the next thing you know you’re on the wrong end of the score.”

So, consistency has been a big stressor for the club this week ahead of this weekend’s set with the Calgary Hitmen.

It’s been another intense week of practice, getting everybody up to speed, both physically and mentally ahead of the second weekend in the shortened 24-game season.

“Practice has been ramped up a little bit, getting the battles going. One of the bigger things was our conditioning for some guys and for our team in general – just getting on that a little bit,” added Rebels 18-year-old forward Jayden Grubbe.

The Hitmen were on a bye to open the WHL season and Grubbe thinks that may give Red Deer a bit of an advantage Friday night.

“Calgary hasn’t played a game yet so I think we might have a little bit of advantage, being in a bit better shape maybe. Our systems we’ve been working on and getting more familiar with that,” he said.

“The biggest thing is coming out ready to get and playing that whole game that we haven’t played that.”

Grubbe, 18, who is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft and is on the NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List, is expected to carry a big load for the Rebels this season.

He isn’t thinking too much about the draft at this point, but if he focuses on helping the Rebels win on a nightly basis, it can only help his stock.

“I haven’t tried to think about that too much. I’m just worried about helping my team and it goes from there. Just working as hard as I can every shift and every game and I think it’ll just lead from there,” said Grubbe, who had three points over the first two contests.

Red Deer will host the Hitmen at 6 p.m. Saturday, fans will still not be allowed into the arena but can follow the action on WHL live.

“They’re just like any other team in our division. The Central division – they’re a rival and it’s their first game, they’re going to be fired up. We gotta come out and start well and finish well,” Leslie added.

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Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe just misses a scoring opportunity on Calgary Hitmen goalie Jack McNaughton in the first period of WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

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