A WHL season is often a winding road, with as many detours and roadblocks as milestones and smooth sailing.
It is up to any particular team to navigate those ebbs and flows like a crew singing along to their favorite song on a good road trip.
For the Red Deer Rebels, the signing has got a bit out of tune and the road bumpier than usual with 19 games left in the campaign.
They’ve lost three straight and have wins in just two of the last seven games. Still, the stretch doesn’t have anyone in panic mode yet, as there’s lots of time to right the ship.
“Focusing on getting back to playing as a team. Using each other and relying on everyone and being there for your teammates. We’ve nailed it back down to the basics and the fundamentals. We’re looking to play a structured team game and I think we’ll be fine,” said veteran Jeff de Wit, as the Rebels prepared to face the Regina Pats on Friday.
“Every team goes through slumps. At the end of the day, you can’t get out of a slump by doing it on your own. You need all 20 guys on the ice helping out.”
De Wit, who is having a career year 24 goals and 36 points in 48 games also said that a full week of practice has helped the group iron out some of the problems that have plagued them lately.
“If it was a four-in-five, you don’t have much time to sit and talk about what’s going wrong. We had the time to do that this week and we’re looking forward to Friday,” he added.
Despite still sitting 10 games over .500 with a 28-18-2-1 record, Red Deer is fighting for an eastern conference wild card spot.
They are three points back of the Medicine Hat Tigers for third in the central, and four back of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for second, with two games in hand on each. Edmonton has pulled away slightly, with 66 points in 53 games.
Veteran Rebels blueliner Dawson Barteaux said the team has recognized the tight race and the pressure might have crept into their minds a little bit the last few games.
“We knew about it, but it really hit home these last couple games when we were struggling. Once you buy in– at the start of the season we did it right and had success. Hopefully, we get that going this weekend,” Barteaux said.
“You want to keep that in the back of your mind but you don’t want to think about it while you’re playing. Just want to play your game and play as hard as you possibly can to possibly get ourselves ahead of everybody in the division. “
Friday the Rebels welcome the Regina Pats to town, who are likely going to miss the playoffs with a 14-36-1-2 record. Regina lost 4-3 to the Hitmen Wednesday in Calgary, a day after a win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout. The Pats are 2-7-0-1 in their last 10 games and sit fifth in the East Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.
For Barteaux, who was drafted by the Pats in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft and traded in 2017 to Red Deer, it’s always a special game.
“I have to give them a lot of credit. They believed in me right from the start and they molded me into what I am a little bit. I spent an important part of my life there, being 15 or 16. They really helped me,” Barteaux said.
Former Rebel Austin Pratt is the leading scorer for the Pats with 19 goals and 40 points.
Saturday Red Deer face a tough test in the Moose Jaw Warriors, who have dropped their last two games but have a 7-2-1-0 record in their last 10 games.