The Red Deer Rebels are hoping to continue a successful road trip through the United States this weekend.
Red Deer will face one of their toughest tests so far this season on Friday night against the Seattle Thunderbirds and will end their trip on Saturday in Tri-City versus the Americans.
Seattle has been a powerhouse in the Western Hockey League and lead the U.S. Division with a 36-9-1-1 record. In the forward group, the Thunderbirds are led by Jared Davidson who’s posted 27 goals and 39 assists for 66 points. Forward Kyle Crnkovic has also been solid for Seattle notching 25 goals and 29 assists for 54 points.
And who can forget forward Dylan Guenther who was reassigned to the Thunderbirds from the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes after his rights were traded by the Edmonton Oil Kings on trade deadline day.
Guenther won the 2022 WHL Championship with the Oil Kings and most recently captured the goal medal for Team Canada at this year’s World Juniors in Halifax.
They’ve also had stellar goaltending by one of the top tandems in the WHL between Thomas Milic and Scott Ratzlaff. The games have been a near split between the two netminders but Ratzlaff has a slight edge with 24 starts.
Ratzlaff, who is expected to be selected in the upcoming NHL entry draft, has been one of the league’s best with four shutouts and is second in the league with a 2.21 goals-against average. He also has the WHL’s third-best save percentage of .918.
Milic has been solid for Seattle sitting fifth best in both save percentage (.914) and goals against average (2.41).
Tri-City has also been one of the top teams sitting fourth in the Western Conference behind Seattle, Portland, and Kamloops. All of them have clinched playoff spots.
Defenceman Lugas Dragicevic has passed the puck well this season leading the team with 44 assists for 57 points. Their leading goal scorer has been Ethan Ernst who’s sniped 28 in 47 games and he’s also second in points with 54.
Goaltender Tomas Suchanek has carried a heavy workload in net starting in 32 of 48 games for the Americans. In that time he’s posted a 3.23 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
Red Deer is 2-1 against the teams in the U.S. Division so far that started with a 1-0 win in the shootout against the Spokane Chiefs last Saturday. Ben King scored the lone goal in the shootout meanwhile goaltender Kyle Kelsey stopped all 26 shots for his second shutout of the season.
The next day Red Deer traveled to Everett for a head-to-head matchup with the Silvertips. Red Deer dropped the contest 4-2 despite taking a 2-1 lead in the second period. King and Frantisek Formanek both scored in the loss and goaltender Rhett Stoesser made 33 saves on 37 shots.
On Tuesday the Rebels won a 5-4 thriller over the Portland Winterhawks. After the Rebels took a 4-2 lead in the third period, Portland stormed back late in the frame to send it to overtime.
In the shootout, both Kai Uchacz and King scored to secure the win for central Alberta’s team. King scored twice in regulation meanwhile Jace Isley and Craig Armstrong added two of their own. Kelsey was fantastic between the pipes with a 35-save performance.
The Rebels will return home at the end of this week and prepare for a matchup with the 2023 Memorial Cup-hosting Kamloops Blazers next Friday at the Peavey Mart Centrium at 7 p.m.