Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Rylan Thiessen (26) guards the front of the net as goalie Connor Unger makes a save on Winnipeg Ice forward Skyler Bruce during a Western Hockey League game on April 14 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Brandon won 5-3. (Keith Hershmiller Photography)

Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Rylan Thiessen (26) guards the front of the net as goalie Connor Unger makes a save on Winnipeg Ice forward Skyler Bruce during a Western Hockey League game on April 14 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Brandon won 5-3. (Keith Hershmiller Photography)

Two big trades provide stability for Red Deer Rebels

All Connor Ungar wanted was an opportunity and he’s finally found it.

The 19-year-old goalie was acquired by the Red Deer Rebels Monday from the Brandon Wheat Kings in exchange for defenceman 18-year-old Mason Ward, as part of a two-trade day for the club.

Red Deer also snagged 20-year-old winger Liam Keeler from the Edmonton Oil Kings, in exchange for 19-year-old forward Jaxsen Weibe.

While it’s easy to look at the Rebels’ failures in the 23-game abbreviated 2020-21 season and wonder what the future holds, Ungar just wants the chance to prove for a full season that he’s a starting goalie in the Western Hockey League.

“I’m really excited to get a shot to be the guy and be in the net most nights,” said Ungar, who hails from Calgary.

“I understand I still have to earn that but it’s an exciting challenge and I’m ready for it.”


Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

That’s something that hasn’t been possible over the last three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He backed up Ethan Kruger in the bubble this year and was behind Jiri Patera the year before that.

In 15 career WHL games, Ungar sports a career 2.87 goals against average, along with a 0.904 save percentage.

And in stereotypical goalie fashion, there may be some good luck awaiting the netminder in Red Deer. His only career WHL shutout came at the Centrium in 2018, a 34-save victory over the Rebels, in only his second WHL start.

“That was a good game, we won 4-0,” said the humble Ungar.

With Ethan Anders graduating and Byron Fancy heading into his final WHL season, Rebels president/GM Brent Sutter needed some more security in net for the 2021-22 WHL season. Anders started 146 games over the past four seasons for the Rebels, while Fancy suited up for 65.

“We’re getting a guy that’s a competitive goalie. A guy that has the potential to be a number one guy,” Sutter said.

“It brings competition to our goaltending position. It was a good trade for both teams.”

The battle between the pipes next year will also include 18-year-old Chase Coward, who played well down the stretch this year for Red Deer.

Losing Ward, who was steadying presence this year on a blueline that was extremely banged up, just happened to be what the Wheat Kings wanted and a place where the Rebels figure they have a talent surplus.

Sutter thinks they have enough emerging talent and with the possible return of Christoffer Sedoff next year, a loaded blueline.


Changes on the horizon for Red Deer Rebels next season

“We’re definitely deeper on the back-end. We’ve got some other kids that are pushing to play, too… we’ve got lots of depth so it allowed as to deal from our strengths,” Sutter said.

Defenceman Kyle Masters and Trey Patterson will be back as 18-year-olds, Joel Sexsmith, Bake Gustafson and Chase Leslie as 19-year-olds, with rookies Jace Weir and Hunter Mayo entering their first full WHL season.

Unlike Ungar, Keeler was hoping to finish his WHL career with the team that drafted him.

He played all five of his WHL seasons in Edmonton, after being drafted by the Oil Kings in the first round, 22nd overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

“The thing about Liam is he’s won. He’s seen both sides of it. When he first came in, how (Edmonton) was building their team. The last few years they’ve been a pretty effective team,” Sutter said.

The six-foot-one, 183-pound winger gives the Rebels more depth up front and added experience. Keeler has played 206 WHL games over the past five years. He had 12 points in 19 games during the shortened year.

“To bring in someone with that kind of experience and knowledge of the game, he plays a fast game and he’s got speed. And a 20-year-old he has that leadership… it was huge for us. He’s a really good player and we’re excited to bring him on board,” Sutter said.

With the addition of Keeler, the Rebels now have four overage players on their roster for next season. Sutter believes that will work itself out before the puck drops in 2021-22.

“It always does,” Sutter said with a chuckle.

Send your news tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mental health support centre in central Alberta to receive funding

Shoppers Drug Mart is lending support to the Canadian Mental Health Association.… Continue reading

Downtown Red Deer was packed with people who lined the streets to watch the Westerner Days parade on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Westerner Days parade cancelled, full details on modified event coming June 28

The 2021 edition of Westerner Days will look much different than any… Continue reading

City council wants to hear from the public at a May 25 hearing about whether the temporary homeless shelter should be allowed to remain in the downtown for another year. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer staff to recommend another extension to allow operations at current temporary shelter site

Following some more research city administration has received no other new locations… Continue reading

A scene from the short Western ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws,’ written and directed by Jason Steele, with support from Telus Storyhive. (Contributed image)
Red Deerians make ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws’ short Western film

Writer and director Jason Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus

Residents in several neighbourhoods reported little to no water pressure Tuesday night. (File photo by Advocate staff)
City hall to reopen for payments and customer service

Red Deer City Hall will reopen on June 21 for utility and… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: You can’t trust Mondays

Monday isn’t my favourite day. It insists on occurring right after a… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Vegas Golden Knights' William Karlsson as he is covered by Canadiens' Joel Edmundson during first period of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal Friday, June 18, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Andreson’s timely scoring, Price’s goaltending give Habs 2-1 series lead over Vegas

Canadiens 3 Golden Knights 2 (OT) (Montreal leads series 2-1) MONTREAL —… Continue reading

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) as he looks for an opening during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday, June 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Curry, Harris help 76ers stay alive, hold off Hawks 104-99

76ers 104 Hawks 99 (Series tied 3-3) ATLANTA — Seth Curry hit… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of a two-dose fall is… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mendicino has announced a new policy to help settle 500 refugees and their families in a news conference today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced plans to expedite applications and increase the… Continue reading

Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bland leads at Torrey and shows the US Open is truly open

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most… Continue reading

The Prime Minister's car waits outside the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg Tuesday, May 19, 2009. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is showing no sign he'll release unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at Canada's highest security laboratory — despite the prospect of being publicly shamed in the House of Commons for his refusal to turn them over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
PHAC head maintains he’s bound by law not to release docs on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant in Canada

OTTAWA — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly… Continue reading

Most Read