Veteran Hagel, rookie hopeful Rowland stand out in Rebels Black and White game
Team White 8 Team Black 3
Through the years, the Red Deer Rebels Black and White intrasquad game hasn’t brought out the best of the veteran players, which is somewhat logical.
Brandon Hagel was an exception to the rule on Wednesday night at the Centrium, scoring four goals and picking up a pair of assists for Team White in an 8-3 win over Team Black.
“It starts from Day 1, I just have to keep moving forward,” said the 20-year-old forward, who will attend the Montreal Canadiens rookie camp early next month and will be an invaluable player for the Rebels if he’s returned to the Western Hockey League club.
“I leave here right away so I want to leave here on a good note and go there on a good note. And if I end up coming back, I want to leave there on a good note as well.”
Hagel tallied once in the first period and fired three goals in the second frame. Linemate Oleg Zaytsev notched a goal and set up Hagel for another and the third member of the unit, Chris Douglas, picked up a single helper.
Hagel and Zaytsev already seem to have formed some good chemistry.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Hagel, who leaves for Montreal next Wednesday, said of the Russian rookie. “It’s going to be incredible playing with him this year. He sees the ice very well and he works at both ends of the ice. He’s just an all-around good hockey player.”
“That line was really good,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We’ve kept four lines together ever since Day 1 in camp and they’ve certainly played well.”
Ethan Rowland, the Rebels’ first-round pick in the 2017 WHL bantam draft, potted a pair of goals for the winners — including one on a third-period breakaway — and was just one of several younger players who looked right at home.
“The future’s bright, the fans have a lot to look forward to and I think you could see that tonight,” said Hagel. “We have a lot of young players coming up and I’m excited even though I’m moving on next year.
“The Black and White game is always fun and it’s good to see the young kids out there as well.”
Rowland missed most of last season with the midget AAA Calgary Northstars due to injury, but has been in top form through training camp and was impactful on Wednesday.
“It feels good to be back here and be around everyone . . . just get my feet going again and start playing the way I like to,” he said. “It’s actually a relief to be healthy again and be playing the way I know I can.”
Sutter has been impressed with the 16-year-old since the start of camp one week ago.
‘Obviously he’s an elite player at 16 and he’s certainly been pushing to play on our hockey team,” said Sutter. “Now he’s got the opportunity as we go through exhibition (season) to see if he’s ready or not.”
“Hopefully I’m in the conversation. I’m just trying to break the roster, do whatever it takes to do that,” said Rowland, who added muscle to his frame during the summer while improving his cardio along with his speed and strength.
“I’m just trying my best out there and trying to play the way I should.”
In the event that he’s on the roster when the regular season starts . . .
“I’m just hoping to be a guy who can play anywhere in the lineup . . . bring energy and play hard.”
Second-year forward River Fahey accounted for Team White’s final goal, while veteran defenceman Jacob Herauf picked up three assists and 16-year-old forward Jordan Borysiuk and netminder Byron Fancy, 17, each contributed one assist.
Returnees Josh Tarzwell and Alex Morozoff scored for Team Black, as did rookie hopeful Blake Sydlowski. Forwards Justin Svenson, Arshdeep Bains and defenceman Ryan Gottfried, all 17, each had an assist, as did overage forward Jeff de Wit.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that many goals in a Black and White game,” said Sutter. “The game had a little bit of everything, which is good.
“It’s a game to measure and see where all the young kids are at, see guys who are fighting to play on the team. Every day they have to show that they belong here.
“In the Black and White game the level of intensity is the highest it’s been through all of training camp, so you get a good measure on everybody and where they’re at at this point.”
Veteran goalie Ethan Anders played two periods for Team Black and turned aside 15 of the 20 shots he faced. Carter Serhyenko, 16, appeared in one period for each team and saved 14 of 19 shots overall, while Fancy made 17 saves on 19 shots through 40 minutes.
Following the contest, nine players were reassigned, bringing the number remaining in camp down to 34.
Reassigned were forwards Jayden McCarthy of Morris, Man., Jaxsen Wiebe of Moose Jaw, Josh Medernach and Mason Ward of Lloydminster, Keaton Sorensen of Red Deer and Skyler Cameron of Nanaimo, and defencemen Garrett Valk of North Vancouver and Blake Gustafson of Ardrossan.
“Everyone that’s leaving after this game we’ve been very happy with. There’s been zero disappointment from our end of it with everyone,” said Sutter.
The Rebels will open preseason play in a four-team tournament on Friday and Saturday at the Centrium.
Red Deer will face the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday and will take on the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday, with a 7 p.m. start both nights.
The Kootenay Ice are the fourth team in the preseason event and will play Calgary and Edmonton at 3 p.m. each day.
The Rebels will then play an additional three exhibition contests — Sept. 8 vs. the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Wainwright, Sept. 14 vs. Edmonton at St. Albert and Sept. 15 against the Medicine Hat Tigers at the Centrium.
Red Deer’s regular-season opener is Sept. 21 at Edmonton and the Rebels will entertain the Oil Kings 24 hours later.