When it went from bad to ugly Tuesday night at the Centrium, Red Deer Rebels forward River Fahey had a front row seat to the chaos.
It was the first WHL game for the 16-year-old from Campbell River, B.C., one he likely won’t soon forget.
Although the youngster didn’t factor in on the score sheet or much in the third-period collapse, he played some valuable minutes in the first and some gritty shifts in the second while the Rebels were rolling. All while playing centre, a rare opportunity for a first-year WHLer.
He’s a big guy that’s going to work, he’s going to finish checks and he’s got some skill to go with it,” Rebels GM/ head coach Brent Sutter said.
“He’s a responsible player – he’s going to be able to handle the physical part of the game at this level because of his size and his strength but he was good on faceoffs, I liked his game.”
When the Wheat Kings shortened their bench Tuesday, in the final frame trailing the Rebels 5-1, it meant Fahey didn’t get an opportunity to contribute in the third. He said seeing it unfold the way it did was tough to watch.
“It was a shot to the heart, that third period. We took our foot off the gas because we thought we had it in the bag. Just have to put a full 60 minutes together and should come out on top,” Fahey said.
Still, the teen added he talked to a number of old teammates and coaches, along with his parents who were able to watch from home about his first WHL game.
“Pretty cool big jump from preseason to regular season. It was cool to get one under the belt,” he said.
“A lot faster then what I’m used to. Took a while to get the feet moving but after that happened, it felt right.”
This season Fahey has played with the North Island Silvertips of the B.C. Major Midget hockey league and has produced at a point-per-game pace with nine goals and seven assists through 17 games.
“It was really good, our team was coming together really well. The boys were really supportive of me coming up here,” he said.
Sutter hopes that playing Fahey at centre from day 1 will help both the organization and the player. Other than that, the Rebels bench boss said he needs to stick to what got him to this point and not change the way he plays.
“Just keep doing what he’s been doing. Learn the game and be a sponge. Wanting to get better every day. Be coachable and learn to be a 200-foot player. Fundamentals of the game, learn to play the game the right way all the time,” Sutter said.
The WHL rookie said he really only knows how to play one way – a physical brand of hockey that also happens to line up with what a Sutter coached team typically does.
“Just trying to do my job out there. Take the body and chip pucks in and don’t get any minuses,” Fahey said.
“I love taking the body. It’s the most fun part.”
Fahey joined the Rebels with another 16-year-old, Justin Svenson of Ile Des Chenes, Man. who has also put up a point-per-game this year (10G, 10A with Eastman Selects in the Manitoba Midget Hockey League).
Sutter added with the way the season is trending in Red Deer, he felt like the time was right to insert a couple younger players into the lineup and see what happens.
“You always hope they make strides. Both him and Svenson were playing well in midget. Their coaches felt like they were past that level now so that’s why we brought them back,” Sutter said.
“Obviously with the situation we’ve been in, where we are in the standings and an older group of forwards, it didn’t make sense to carry on with having that many older guys up front on our team. We might as well bring those kids back and let them play. They’re both going to get an opportunity, get a chance throughout from here to the rest of the year.”