The Red Deer Rebels are finding ways to stay motivated in the dog days of the WHL season.
The Rebels locked up a playoff spot on March 11 but haven’t been able to make up much ground in the WHL standings, trailing the Edmonton Oil Kings for second in the Eastern Conference. Red Deer is 13 points back of Winnipeg for first and 11 back of the Oil Kings for second.
They’re also nine points clear of the Moose Jaw Warriors for third spot in the conference with eight games left on the schedule.
That means home-ice advantage in round one is all but locked in, barring a major slide.
Coming off a pair of weekend losses to Lethbridge, the Rebels are hoping to right the ship quickly and use that as motivation heading into the playoffs.
“We clinched a playoff spot but the work’s not over, we still have eight games left. We need to stay in that third seed, maybe climb a little bit higher. We just want to get that home-ice advantage,” said 19-year-old Ben King, who has 23 points in his last 10 games.
“We just have to keep playing. It starts with this weekend. Last weekend, we didn’t play how we wanted to play and we only got one point, so I think this weekend it’s a big four points.”
Despite the hiccup last weekend, King still leads the WHL in goals with 49 and his 93 points are second behind teammate Arshdeep Bains, who leads the league with 94. Bains is the eighth player in Rebels history to record 60 assists in a single season – the last was Brandon Hagel in the 2018-19 season.
With his 50th goal, King will tie Dean Tiltgen’s mark from the 1992-93 WHL season, a tie for fourth on the Rebels single-season all-time goals list. He’ll be one of only four Rebels’ to score 50 goals in a single season.
King is also tied for second in single-season game-winning goals, two off the all-time record of 16 set by Brian Popp in the 1978-79 season.
On top of all that, Rebels goalie Connor Ungar is fifth in goals against average with a 2.28 mark.
All those individual accomplishments are nice, but King said the team really has to dial their game in over the final stretch.
“Clinching gets you a secure spot in the playoff but as a team, we want to keep playing and keep winning, because winning is obviously more fun. Doesn’t matter that we clinched, just have to keep focusing on what’s ahead of us,” King added.
To that end, the Rebels have WHL’s top ranked power play, operating at a 28 per cent clip. They’ve scored 67 goals on 239 power plays this season. King leads the way in that aspect as well with 21 goals on the advantage.
Red Deer’s penalty kill has been another strong aspect for the club this season. They have an 80 per cent penalty kill, good for sixth in the entire WHL.
The Rebels are also the best team in the WHL in the faceoff dot, winning 54.5 per cent of their draws.
The Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday, followed by the Swift Current Broncos Saturday, with both games at 7 p.m. at the Peavey Mart Centrium.