No wins for Rebels yet, but Sutter remains positive
The Red Deer Rebels failed to record a win during their WHL regular season opening weekend, but GM/head coach Brent Sutter was pleased with how his club performed considering the circumstances.
The Rebels were minus the services of five key veterans, yet played the Edmonton Oil Kings almost even-up while falling 3-2 in overtime Friday at the Centrium and 4-3 in a shootout 24 hours later in Edmonton.
The two points the team secured, Sutter suggested, were gravy.
“The kids worked and competed hard,” said the Rebels boss, who had 10 rookies in his lineup both nights. “Some of the mistakes that were made were just learning mistakes, young mistakes.”
In other words, Sutter was far from discouraged.
“There was a lot of good things this weekend and probably the biggest thing is the fact that these kids got put into regular-season game situations and roles they normally wouldn’t play in if we had a full lineup,” he said.
“That was important for them this early to have a sense and a feel for that moving forward. It was good for their development.”
The Rebels surrendered a tying goal late in the third period Friday before losing in extra time and were up 3-2 at Rogers Place 24 hours later before yielding a late second-period power-play goal.
“We had chances to win both games,” said Sutter. “At Edmonton we had a couple of two-on-ones which would have gave us a two-goal spread. But we didn’t capitalize and then we take a penalty and the puck is in our net.
“But our effort was there and when you get into a shootout anything can happen, it’s just the way it goes. Our young players made some mistakes but we learned a lot through the weekend, too.”
Rookie forward D-Jay Jerome certainly made his presence felt Saturday, scoring twice and picking up an assist on Evan Polei’s goal.
“I’m not worried about his offensive abilities, it’s more about learning the game and playing without the puck,” said Sutter. “He’s learning how to play on both sides of the puck and how you have to play in the defensive and neutral zones. D-Jay played well.”
Sutter also gave weekend kudos to fellow freshmen forwards Akash Bains, Brandon Cutler and Quinn Martin, and first-year rearguards Carson Sass and Ethan Sakowich.
The goaltending of Riley Lamb (Friday) and Trevor Martin (Saturday) was also solid.
Sutter was equally impressed with rookies Austin Schellenberg and Jacob Herauf, both of whom saw limited ice time, and also liked the play of second-year winger Austin Pratt and recently-acquired — in a trade with the Tri-City Americans — forward Jordan Roy, who picked up two assists Saturday.
“Those two were very effective this weekend,” said Sutter. “As a twosome, they were outstanding.
“The biggest thing for Jordan is for him to play a real heavy, straight-line game. He made some great plays last night and had a couple of chances to score. Hopefully it works out for him here if he stays within the confines of his game. Kids can go from one organization to another and completely change.”
Following Friday’s contest, Sutter dealt 18-year-old forward Taden Rattie to the Vancouver Giants in return for a sixth-round pick in next year’s WHL bantam draft.
Rattie was never going to find a spot on one of the Rebels’ top three lines and keeping him would have only cut into the ice time of one or more first-year forwards.
“With Rats, it was a situation where he wanted to play more. And for us he was our 12th to 14th forward,” said Sutter. “That’s where he was going to fit in here.”
The Giants expressed interested in the six-foot-four, 190-pound Airdrie native and Sutter obliged them.
“They have some injuries and were looking for bodies,” said Sutter. “They were looking for some size and grit.”
Two of the five veterans — forwards Brandon Hagel and Jeff deWit — away at NHL training camps during the weekend will return to Red Deer Monday.
Sutter hopes to learn more early this week about when the other three — forwards Michael Spacek and Adam Musil and defenceman Josh Mahura — will be back.
The Rebels will head east Thursday on a three-game road trip that includes stops in Moose Jaw, Brandon and Regina. Red Deer’s next home game is Oct. 5 versus the Kamloops Blazers.