Red Deer Rebels goalie Connor Ungar is eager to prove himself in the WHL postseason. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels goalie Connor Ungar is eager to prove himself in the WHL postseason. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels goaltenders push each other to play better

Despite entering the season with limited Western Hockey League resumés, both goaltenders have been steady for the Red Deer Rebels.

Coming into this 2021-22 season, Chase Coward had played just six Western Hockey League games and Connor Ungar, who was traded to the Rebels this off-season, had played 13.

The goaltenders have each started 32 games this year, and hold nearly identical save percentages and goals-against averages. Coward is 20-9-0-2 on the year with a 2.41 goals against average and 0.909 save percentage, while Ungar is 21-8-1-0, sporting a 2.34 goals against average, along with a 0.912 save percentage.

“We’ve been battling back and forth all year long and I expect that to continue,” said Ungar.

“It makes us both better. We know we have to be at our best to play games. Ultimately that’s helped us and the team have success.”

Coward, who has been a part of the Rebels organization for three seasons, said the two have bonded as friends during Ungar’s first year with the team.

“We push each other in practice and try make each other better,” said Coward.

“When we’re on the ice we’re competing for the starting spot in the net, but off the ice, we put that all aside and we’re good buds.”

Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk praised both Coward and Ungar for their play.

“They’ve been solid for us all year. It’s a luxury we’ve had to put in either goalie – they’re good starting goalies,” Konowalchuk said.

“You don’t have to tax them a lot throughout the year, you can keep them fresh. Most importantly, any time they go in you have a chance to win with either goalie. At this level to have two goalies like that is pretty nice.”

It’s too soon to say whether Ungar and Coward will continue to split starts in the playoffs, which start April 22, or if one goalie will get the chance to take the ball and run with it.

“Probably, like with most of the regular season, the play will dictate. It is a bit of a competition with the two of them, just like it is with any position on our team – you earn your ice time,” he said.

“We’ll see how the next four games go and decide what we want to do to start playoffs and go from there. One game at a time.”

Both goalies say they’re ready if given the call to start in the playoffs.

“We both want to play. I want the ball, he wants the ball. We’ll just have to keep going and see what happens,” said Ungar.

Coward added: “Right now it could go either way. We’re both playing well. It’s up to (Konowalchuk). I feel like going into the playoffs, if one of us has a bad game, the other has the ability to step in.”

Both netminders will likely get the chance to play this weekend, as the Rebels play twice in two nights.

Red Deer will host the Lethbridge Hurricanes for Alumni Night Friday evening at the Peavey Mart Centrium. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Rebels will then play a road game against the Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday at 2 p.m.

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