Two years ago when it was decided to run just one bantam AAA hockey team in Red Deer and Central Alberta, it made the program more competitive on at provincial level.
“We knew last year when we went to one team we’d be competitive and we were … this year we’re even a step up and in every game,” said Red Deer Rebels head coach Justin Jarmolicz, who is in his second season with the bantam squad.
“It’s a lot of fun when you’re competitive and around top notch players,” said Jarmolicz, who has an experienced squad with 15 of his 18 regular players in their 14-year-old season.
In fact all three 13-year-old players are on defence.
“All three are talented kids with a great work ethic,” said Jarmolicz. “It’s a tough league for kids to step into, but they’re picking it up quickly and learning every day. Those three kids will be real good next year as they’re already hard to play against.”
The trio — Charlie Wright, Austin Mayert and Bosten Lajuenesse — are joined by Alex Litster, Ronan Seeley and Cameron Kungle on the blueline.
Seeley and talented forward Noah Danielson are the only two players back from last season.
Danielson is tied for the league lead in scoring with 56 points on 26 goals and 30 assists. Seeley is tied for third in team scoring with 30 points on five goals and 25 assists. He is tied for the league lead in assists by defencemen.
Danielson is considered one of the top players in the province when it comes to the WHL Bantam Draft.
“Everyone seems to be talking about him,” said Jarmolicz. “I know he will be drafted for sure. He’s very skilled, not big (five-foot-eight, 140-pounds) so he won’t over-power anyone, but is an excellent skater and a natural talent.”
Danielson and Seeley join forward Brett Meerman 0n the South Division team for the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League all-star game.
Meerman is second-year bantam and is 10th in league scoring with 47 points on 24 goals and 23 helpers.
“He didn’t make the team last year but played bantam AA in Lacombe, which was perfect for him,” said Jarmolicz. “He got great coaching and has been a factor with us this season.”
“Overall the Rebels are one of the highest scoring teams in the league with 133 goals, second only to St. Albert’s 151.
“We have three lines that can score, which is hard to come by at this age. It seems that every game we have guys who step up and contribute.”
Kyle Wallace (14g, 16a) and Konnor Green (15g, 11a) are averaging over a point a game while Kayde Budgell (10g, 15a), Wyatt Fluet (9a, 14a), Kaleb Kremp (6g, 5a), Silas Buijs, Brady Caruth and Connor Sholdice round out for the forward units.
Caleb Trottier and Carter Vooys share goaltending duties and have both posted solid numbers.
Trottier has an 11-1-4 record, a 2.49 goals-against-average and a .905 save percentage. Vooys is 7-2-2, 2.98 and .889.
“Both goalies have been very consistent and come up with the big save when we need it,” said Jarmolicz. “They give us a chance to win every game.”
The Rebels lead the Ram (rural) South Division with an 18-3-6 record, one point up on Lethbridge (19-4-3).
“I feel we’re in the toughest division … there are no weak teams,” said Jarmolicz. “Whoever wins this division will be tough to beat.”
The Bisons lead the Calgary city division while Fort Saskatchewan and Camrose top the north rural division and St. Albert is running away with the Edmonton city division.
“The academies have hurt the Edmonton league, taking some of the top-end talent. It’s watered down some of the teams.”
The Rebels are on the road this weekend at the Bisons Saturday and Southeast Tigers Sunday. They’re at home Jan, 15 against the PAC Saints.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca