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The Red Deer Rebels were spectators instead of soldiers in the first period and then broke down in the homestretch of Friday’s Western Hockey League meeting with the Medicine Hat Tigers.
If they’re both back in Red Deer next year, they’ll be disappointed. Red Deer Rebels stars Haydn Fleury and Conner Bleackley were selected in the first round of June’s NHL entry draft — seventh overall to Carolina and 23rd to Colorado — and both attended their first professional training camps last month.
Bigger, faster and stronger. In comparison to most major junior players, National Hockey League skaters are all of the above. Haydn Fleury discovered exactly that when he attended the rookie and main camps of the Carolina Hurricanes, and yet he also noticed another major difference between juniors and pros — work habits.
The 2016 Memorial Cup tournament is a year and half down the road, and of course the Red Deer Rebels roster will not be then what it is today. The Rebels team that will host the Canadian Hockey League championship event will be somewhat similar to the squad that will face the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday at the Enmax Centrium, minus — of course — this season’s overage players, but also players who might not fit into Brent Sutter’s vision of what a potential championship team should entail.
The Western Hockey League website has Red Deer Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury’s injury status listed as ‘indefinite’. Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, however, insisted Tuesday that Fleury, who suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s 7-1 loss at Brandon, is ‘day-to-day’ and should be back in the lineup Friday against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
Just when it seemed quite possible that the Red Deer Rebels would return home from their WHL Eastern Division road trip with a trio of setbacks versus no victories, Presten Kopeck came to the rescue. Kopeck potted his second goal of the game 1:06 into overtime to lift the Rebels to a 4-3 win over the Regina Pats Sunday and snap a two-game losing streak that included 3-0 and 7-1 defeats to the Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Red Deer Rebels fired 13 first-period shots at Zach Sawchenko Thursday without finding twine and the tone was set for the remainder of their WHL clash with the Moose Jaw Warriors. “We just didn’t finish early and played erratically with a lot of turnovers,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter following a 3-0 Western Hockey League loss to the Warriors before 3,044 fans at Mosaic Place.
Red Deer Rebels third-year forward Wyatt Johnson harbours all of the characteristics of a true team player . . . every coach’s dream, if you will. Now he’s honing those special attributes that will hopefully make him the ultimate complete player.
It’s the Red Deer Rebels’ annual rite of fall — the yearly Eastern Division road trip roughly two weeks into the Western Hockey League season. The Rebels pulled out of the Centrium parking lot Wednesday morning and headed east on a three-game jaunt that starts tonight against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Red Deer Rebels looked like the total package Saturday night at the Enmax Centrium, a package complete with fancy wrap and tied with bows. All facets of the Rebels game were clicking as the host club romped to a 7-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice before a recorded gathering of 5,056. The home club dominated all but the first 10 minutes of the middle frame while improving to 2-1-0-0 just over a week into the Western Hockey League season.
Kolton Dixon represents a nice problem for the Red Deer Rebels. The 19-year-old was projected as a forward this season, but his play on the blueline this fall has impressed the coaching staff to the point where the Red Deer native has played both Western Hockey League regular-season games at his natural position.
As one high-profile captain prepared to make his exit this week, another official team leader returned to the Red Deer Rebels. Of course, New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter is a baseball legend, while Rebels skipper Conner Bleackley is just beginning what should be a long and successful career on the ice. But the 18-year-old first-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in June’s NHL entry draft is arguably as important to the Rebels as Jeter was to the Yankees.
The Red Deer Rebels will know in two weeks what their calendar will entail a little over 19 months down the road. In May of 2016, the Rebels will either be on the golf course, chasing a Western Hockey League title and/or preparing to host the Memorial Cup tournament.
The Red Deer Rebels took on the host Calgary Hitmen Saturday evening and looked a lot like the club that carried the play against the visiting Kootenay Ice 24 hours previous. Except this time the Rebels garnered a positive result, downing the Hitmen 4-1 on the heels of a 5-3 loss to the Ice in their Western Hockey League regular-season opener Friday at the Enmax Centrium.
On the eve of the Red Deer Rebels’ Western Hockey League regular-season opener, Brent Sutter was counting the ways in which he’s comfortable with his opening-night group. He came up with not one, not two, but three areas in which he’s already seen improvements over the 2013-14 non-playoff team that struggled due to a high number of fresh faces and a lack of administrative veterans, which, in turn, led to a somewhat dysfunctional locker room environment.
He’s the ultimate team player, a veteran who’s willing to switch positions and help his club in whichever way possible. He’s Devan Fafard, a 20-year-old who is fighting for a job as a Red Deer Rebels forward after patrolling the club’s blueline the last two and a half seasons.
The Red Deer Rebels looked past the Medicine Hat Tigers Saturday and then watched as their smallish opponents skated past them. “I don’t look at it as a step back. I just don’t think we were as sharp as we needed to be. You could sense that the kids were just wanting to get the exhibition season over with,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who watched his team conclude its Western Hockey League preseason schedule with a 4-0 loss to the Tigers Saturday night at Stettler.
Home cooking didn’t agree with the Red Deer Rebels last season. Clearly, that has to change in 2014-15, stressed GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who last winter too often suffered from his own bouts of indigestion at the Enmax Centrium.
Coming off a successful weekend in Kennewick, Wash., Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter talked about how his club is “playing the right way” during the Western Hockey League preseason. Sutter is tickled that each and every player is on the same page as the coaching staff, which should make for an easier transition once the regular season starts next week and the bullets are flying in earnest.
The Red Deer Rebels had room for three 17-year-old defencemen. Four, as it turns out, was going to be too many. Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter reassigned 1997-born rearguard Austin Shmoorkoff to the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League Monday, leaving the club with a 25-man roster. Shmoorkoff was in tough to beat out fellow 17-year-olds Hugo Jansons, Mario Grman and Austin Strand, particularly the latter.