Rebels off to Kennewick on Thursday
Fresh off a split of their first two WHL preseason games, the Red Deer Rebels will head south Thursday in search of another challenge.
Make that two more challenges, with the Rebels slated to take on the host Americans in a Tri-City exhibition tournament contest Friday night in Kennewick, Wash., and the Spokane Chiefs Saturday.
“It’s a good tournament,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said of the annual event his team will attend for the third year in succession. “It’s something different for our players, it gives them a chance to get together and get to know each other more.
“Plus, you go there and get to play a couple of teams that you only play once during the season.”
The Rebels downed the Edmonton Oil Kings 6-1 in last Friday’s preseason opener at the Centrium, then fell 6-4 to the visiting Calgary Hitmen 24 hours later despite carrying the play over the final 40 minutes.
Sutter gleaned a pocketful of positives from the two outings. For example, 16-year-old Brandon Cutler notched a pair of goals and fellow forward Austin Schellenberg, also 16, picked up two assists.
There was also the steady play of 17-year-old defenders Carson Sass and Ethan Sakowich, plus a goal and an assist from forward D-Jay Jerome, 17.
Clearly, there were more exclamation than question marks regarding the younger hopefuls.
“We got a chance to see where some of these young kids are at and each game they got a little better. That’s the important thing,” said Sutter.
“We could see there is skill there, that we have guys who can skate and adjust to the pace. The second game was a quicker game with more veterans dressed (for Calgary). It was good for our kids, really good.”
And now it’s on to Kennewick and two more tests for the youngsters.
“Tri-City is a big team and you have to get in the trenches against them, and then Spokane has a lot of skill and are quick,” said Sutter. “It’s going to be two different types of games and it will be interesting to see how the young guys respond to that.”
Just notes: Eight Rebels are slated to attend NHL preseason prospect tournaments late next week. Evan Polei and Adam Musil are ticketed for Traverse City, Mich., where they will be with the St. Louis Blues prospects. Polei, however, remains a question mark after suffering an upper-body injury in the first period of Saturday’s game. Also set to compete in Traverse City are Grayson Pawlenchuk (Dallas), Colton Bobyk (NY Rangers) and Jeff de Wit (Detroit). Josh Mahura (Anaheim), Brandon Hagel (Buffalo) and Michael Spacek (Winnipeg) will attend separate camps. With at least seven players away, Sutter may have to call in recruits — namely players whom he has already reassigned — for the Rebels’ final two preseason games, Sept. 16 at Ralston versus the Medicine Hat Tigers and Sept. 17 against the Tigers at the Centrium. “We should have 11 forwards and six defencemen, which is OK,” said Sutter. “There’s nothing wrong with doing that. We’ll just play it by ear and see where we’re at at that point in time. If we need to bring somebody back, we will.” Two possible fill-ins are 15-year-old defenceman Nicholas Draffin and forward Chase Lowry, 16, who were reassigned to midget AAA teams in Lethbridge and Sherwood Park following Friday’s game against the Oil Kings. “It could be them if needed, or maybe a couple of other 15-year-olds who we have signed,” said Sutter . . . The Rebels are at the Centrium Wednesday for practice sessions at 2 and 3:10 p.m.