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As the youngest team in the Western Hockey League, the Red Deer Rebels are clearly in rebuild mode. Looking at the team’s list of prospects, assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter likes the manner in which the Rebels are rebuilding — with a mix of talent, tenacity and size.
Leaving Portland was difficult, in more ways than one. When new Red Deer Rebels forward Presten Kopeck departed the Oregon city last Sunday, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the 15-degree (Celsius) range. Not only that, he was leaving the only Western Hockey League team he knew.
The Red Deer Rebels will have a merry Christmas after all. The Rebels, without four of their top six scorers, entered Tuesday’s WHL meeting with the Medicine Hat Tigers as decided underdogs. But a hot goaltender and a dogged work ethic will often work wonders, and the Rebels had both while upending the visitors 5-2 before 4,150 fans at the Enmax Centrium.
It will be a hurtin’ Red Deer Rebels squad that faces the Medicine Hat Tigers tonight at the Centrium. The Rebels will head into their final game prior to the Christmas break minus the services of four top-six forwards in Rhyse Dieno, Dominik Volek, Brooks Maxwell and Matt Bellerive, while forwards Grayson Pawlenchuk and Christian Stockl will also remain out of the lineup.
Being blown out by the lowly Lethbridge Hurricanes four days earlier was a humbling experience. The Red Deer Rebels couldn’t let it happen again, especially on home ice.
The Red Deer Rebels lost Brandon Sutter to the Carolina Hurricanes as a 19-year-old in 2008 and watched as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, just 18, joined the Edmonton Oilers three years later. Minus their best players, the Rebels dropped off in the WHL standings in the seasons that followed and when defenceman Matt Dumba joined the Minnesota Wild as a 19-year-old this season Brent Sutter had to take action when it became apparent that Dumba would not be returning to Red Deer.
While he’s not yet a top-flight Western Hockey League player, Vukie Mpofu is an A-plus student of the game. The Red Deer Rebels rookie forward is catching on to the major junior brand with a mixture of speed and physical play and is doing everything within his power to improve as a player.
The final countdown to the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship is on and Brent Sutter is ticking off the hours. “It will be nice to get it going,” the Canadian national junior team head coach said Wednesday, less than 24 hours before departing for Toronto and a three-day Team Canada selection camp to be attended by 25 players.
Rookie goaltenders can be prone to difficult outings, especially 16-year-old stoppers who have next to no major junior experience. Taz Burman is one such example. The Rebels netminder struggled mightily Tuesday at the Enmax Centre, taking the fall in a 6-0 WHL loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes — winners of only five games this season — while facing 27 shots in front of 2,473 fans.
The Red Deer Rebels were the better team for one-third of Saturday’s Western Hockey League game versus the visiting Portland Winterhawks. Unfortunately, the Rebels were on the other side of the ledger for the first two periods until carrying the play in the third, and the end result was their 15th loss of the season.
The difference between the Dominik Volek of this season and last is more mental than physical, according to the Red Deer Rebels forward. “I think my head is a little more in the game,” Volek said Thursday. “I’m trying to prepare better for the games, focus on myself. The biggest change is in my head, not (with) my hockey skills.”
The Red Deer Rebels had to react in a positive manner Wednesday after a disappointing performance in a 5-2 Western Hockey League loss to the host Calgary Hitmen the night before. They delivered, and in impressive fashion, rallying from a 3-1 deficit with five unanswered goals in a 6-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in front of a recorded gathering of 4,117 at the Enmax Centrium.
CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels roared out of the starting gate Tuesday at the Saddledome. But as the old saying goes — it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Rebels got power-play goals from Rhyse Dieno and Dominik Volek in the first 67 seconds, but didn’t see much of the puck the rest of the evening in a 5-2 WHL loss to the Calgary Hitmen before 5,707 fans.
SWIFT CURRENT — The Red Deer Rebels held down the fort in the first period, but didn’t have enough ammo down the stretch to avoid a 4-3 Western Hockey League loss to the Swift Current Broncos Saturday. “We had an awful first period,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We were on our heels, we were soft. We were fortunate to be tied 1-1. Patty played great again.”
Ivan Nalimov stands six-foot-four but he probably looked even bigger to Team WHL Wednesday night at the Enmax Centrium. The Russian netminder turned aside 42 shots to lead his squad to a 3-2 win over the best of the Western Hockey League in a Subway Super Series contest viewed by 6,057 fans.
Neither player is new to international hockey, but Josh Morrissey is looking at tonight’s Subway Super Series game at the Centrium as a ticket to the Canadian national junior teams final selection camp, while Griffin Reinhart will be out to prove he deserves a second tour of duty with the national team. “It’s going to be fun,” Morrissey, a Prince Albert Raiders defenceman, said Tuesday following a practice session with Team WHL in advance of the 7 p.m. Super Series clash with Team Russia.
Brent Sutter was in his easy chair Monday evening, getting another look at Team Russia in a televised Subway Super Series game against Team OHL at Sudbury. The Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach will view the Russians from a much closer vantage point Wednesday when the visitors are at the Centrium to take on Team WHL at 7 p.m. Sutter will handle head-coaching duties for the WHL squad for Wednesday’s contest and the final game of the Super Series Thursday at Lethbridge.
The new-look Red Deer Rebels snapped a two-game WHL losing streak Saturday at the Enmax Centrium. ‘New look,’ as in a completely different team from the squad that dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the visiting Regina Pats 24 hours earlier, and also in terms of the Rebels’ forward lines.
He’s not exactly the Invisible Man, but Kayle Doetzel also isn’t the most noticeable of the Red Deer Rebels’ defencemen. And considering his style of play, that’s a compliment.
He’s not a numbers guy, but more of a team player. Red Deer Rebels second-year forward Wyatt Johnson notched the overtime winner Saturday in a 4-3 WHL conquest of the host Lethbridge Hurricanes, a mere 24 hours after picking up a pair of assists in a 4-2 home-ice win over the Moose Jaw Warriors.