Preparation the key to Rebels success: Polei
Photo by Rob Wallator
It wasn’t long ago, just last week, in fact, that the Red Deer Rebels looked like a team on the rise.
After falling to the host Lethbridge Hurricanes 3-1 in a Jan. 7 Western Hockey League game they dominated for two periods, the Rebels downed the potent Prince George Cougars 4-1 at the Centrium three nights later.
Since then, however, the Red Deer squad has managed just a single victory in four road games and in fact has dropped the last three.
Included was Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Calgary Hitmen, a sub .500 team.
“We didn’t prepare properly and it starts with what we do at the rink, what we do in the morning,” Rebels veteran forward Evan Polei said Thursday, looking back at the Calgary contest.
“We need to have more guys with the mindsets that they need to be putting the work in, so we need to come to the rink ready every day and that’s how it will turn around.”
Polei admitted that he and his teammates were confident better times were just around the corner after the close call in Lethbridge and the conquest of the Cougars.
“After those games we definitely felt like we were playing solid hockey,” he said. “We were doing what we need to do.
“But as soon as you get away from that, like last night . . . it doesn’t work if we (players) want to do it our way. We have to buy in and do it the coaches’ way.”
The Prince Albert Raiders, who were defeated 4-3 by the Rebels one week earlier, visit the Centrium Friday. Despite the fact the Raiders have just eight wins this season, they showed last week that they can be better than their record would indicate.
Clearly, the Rebels can’t look past the Raiders and towards the Victoria Royals — a 24-win team heading into tonight’s clash with the host Edmonton Oil Kings — who will be in town Saturday.
“Any team can beat any team in this league if you don’t come prepared, so we have to prepare like this is one of the top teams in the league,” said Polei, in reference to Friday’s game. “You cant’ come in thinking they only have eight wins on the season.”
The Rebels have flourished at home this season with a 13-6-2-0 slate, yet — as Polei pointed out — they won’t maintain that success if their game preparation is sub-standard.
“If we come out and play hard tomorrow night then we should play just as well against Victoria on Saturday,” he said. “It all starts with tomorrow.”
In contrast to their home-ice record, the Rebels are a mere 7-13 on the road. While their next five games are at the Centrium, the Rebels realize the importance of experiencing more success in enemy territory.
“If you’re not over .500 at home you’re not going to make the playoffs, and on the road it’s same thing,” said Polei. “We have to get our ‘road warrior’ hats on and turn that (road record) around.”
Rebels vs. Prince Albert Raiders; Tonight, 7 p.m., Centrium
The Raiders are coming off a 6-3 loss to the Kootenay Ice Wednesday at Cranbrook and are 0-7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Prince Albert sits 12th in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the East Division with a 8-34-3-2 record . . . C Jordy Stallard, acquired from the Calgary Hitmen at the trade deadline, leads all P.A. scorers with 11 goals and 31 points. LW Simon Stransky is next with 30 points (13g,17a), while C Curtis Miske (8-11) and RW and team captain Tim Vanstone (7-12) each have 19 points . . . Regular starter Ian Scott is 30th among WHL goalies with a 4.18 goals-against average. The Calgary native, ranked second among North American netminders eligible for this year’s NHL entry draft, possesses an .885 save percentage and has posted one shutout.
Injuries: Prince Albert — LW Simon Stransky (upper body, day-to-day), RW Tim Vanstone (upper body, day-to-day), C Drew Warkentine (upper body, day-to-day). Red Deer — LW Akash Bains (upper body, day-to-day), RW Brandon Cutler (upper body, day-to-day), D Jacob Herauf (lower body, week-to-week), RW Reese Johnson (upper body, indefinite), LW Grayson Pawlenchuk (lower body, indefinite).
Special teams: Prince Albert — Power play 12.9 per cent, 22nd overall; penalty kill 75.8 per cent, 18th. Red Deer — Power play 17.2 per cent, 17th overall; penalty kill 76.7 per cent, 15th.