Coming off of two big wins this past weekend, the Red Deer Rebels will now shift their focus towards one of the team’s biggest challenges of the season.
Red Deer (6-3-1) will play the undefeated Winnipeg ICE (9-0-0) at Peavey Mart Centrium Tuesday night in Western Hockey League action.
The Rebels, currently tied for first in the Central Division, are coming off of a 6-3 win against the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday and a 7-1 win against the Brandon Wheat Kings Saturday.
“Hopefully (Red Deer players) are feeling more and more belief in their abilities,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“They’re having success and they’ve played well at times – there has been some bumps and growing pains along the way as far as consistency goes. But I hope the biggest thing is they’re feeling is confidence that every game we go into we have a chance to win.”
So far this season, Winnipeg is averaging more than six goals for and less than two goals against per game – in nine outings, the ICE has scored 58 goals and have been scored on just 17 times.
Konowalchuk said the key to winning Tuesday’s game is forcing Winnipeg to play the Rebels’ style of game.
“We want to play the same way we’ve played the last few games and not really change anything because of the opponent you’re playing,” he said.
“They’ve scored some goals and a big part of that is their power play. We want to be smart and limit as many chances as we can. That’s still the same game plan for everybody – draw more penalties than you’re taking.”
Rebels forward Blake Stevenson said it’s important to shut down Winnipeg’s high-powered offence.
“They’ve proved they can score goals. We’ve done the same thing the last two games. We have to compete with them in the offensive zone, while keeping our defensive game strong,” said Stevenson.
The six-foot, 190-pound right-winger is in his first season with the Red Deer Rebels. Stevenson was acquired just a week before their season opener from the Saskatoon Blades, in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft.
The overage forward currently leads the team in points, with 10 in 10 games.
“I think I need to be a little more consistent. I’ve had a couple of three-point nights, but I want to get points every night and contribute as much as I can to the team,” he said.
Nine players on the ICE have 10 or more points.
Stevenson said overall he is happy with how the Rebels are playing.
“We’ve kind of figured out how to play some consistent hockey. We couldn’t really figure that out at the start (of the season),” he said.
“We’re on a bit of a high right now, we’ve got to keep it pretty levelled coming into (Tuesday) night against Winnipeg. We’re feeling pretty good and pretty confident.”
Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Peavey Mart Centrium. Red Deer will host the Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday and will then visit the Calgary Hitmen Sunday.