Red Deer Rebels veteran Josh Tarzwell went just about anywhere to find some ice time over the last 12 months.
Tarzwell spent a bit of time skating in Vancouver with teammates Arshdeep Bains and Chris Douglas, before brief stays in Grande Prairie and Moose Jaw. Tarzwell even dressed up in full gear, outside on the outdoor rink close to home when he could.
“It’s pretty cold though, I tried to get out there early mornings when there’s no one else so you’re not embarrassing yourself,” he said with a chuckle.
Tarzwell, a veteran of 237 WHL games, is set to embark on his final season in the league. The Red Deer native knows the 2020-21 WHL season, a 24-game sprint until May, will certainly be the most unique of his career.
“It’s weird – because once we’re out of the Centrium, it’s over, I don’t think I’ll leave,” Tarzwell added with a laugh.
“It’s nice that we get 24 games to finish it out. The league is doing as much as they can to give us a season. I’m just going to try and take advantage, at least we get 24 games.”
The challenge this season will come from all sorts of directions, but Tarzwell says the group just has to focus on one opponent at a time. First up on Friday is the Medicine Hat Tigers, who finished 31 points ahead of the Rebels in the Central Division last season.
“They are a fast, high-flying team, so we gotta be ready. We’ve been working on a lot of systems, trying to get everything dialed in,” he said.
The six-foot-one, 205-pound winger is hoping to build off what was his best WHL season last year when he notched 32 goals in 63 games and was on 0.65 points per game pace when the season was halted. Regardless of how the season finished nearly 350 days ago, Tarzwell is ready to have fun this time around.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking… guys like myself haven’t played in 11 months. Close to a year by the time everything gets started up. I’m excited, it’s been a long time coming,” said Tarzwell, who turned 21 on Feb. 8, just after the team entered its quarantine in the suites at the Westerner Park Centrium.
While Tarzwell is trying to recapture his touch from last season, 20-year-old netminder Ethan Anders has left last season long in the rearview mirror.
He said he skated with the same group for most of the summer and into the fall, just eagerly awaiting his final WHL season. The uncertainty was tough, especially when the season was pushed to the end of February.
“That one was tough because it was another month away, but at that point, you were so anxious to get back, get around the guys again and get on the ice and start playing,” he said.
“That last month or so at home I was pretty anxious to get back to Red Deer and start playing some hockey.”
— Red Deer Rebels (@Rebelshockey) February 25, 2021
Anders says despite a rocky campaign last year, where he posted 3.76 goals against average and 0.888 save percentage, he hopes his final 24-game swansong is one he’ll remember for a long time.
I just want to go out and just enjoy it. It’s my last year, it’s a shortened season. Every game I want to go out there, have fun and enjoy it, see what happens at the end of the year,” he said.
The Regina product knows Medicine Hat will be a tough opponent Friday but he thinks the Rebels are up for the challenge.
“Just treat it like any other game. We’ve had two little scrimmages. It’s been nice to get into the game mindset a little bit on those days and feel the pace of play out a little bit,” Anders said.
Friday’s puck drop is 6 p.m. at the Centrium. Fans cannot attend the game but can watch on WHL Live for free during the league’s opening weekend.