Veterans lead the way as Rebels rout Royals for 11th straight win
Rebels 6 Royals 2
It was business as usual for the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
And the outcome was familiar, a 6-2 victory by the home squad over the Victoria Royals — the Rebels 11th in succession to start the WHL season.
“I liked our start, I liked our mindset,” said head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “As a team everybody was attempting and for the most part executing our game plan with the puck.
“We played the systems we like to play pretty much for 60 minutes, and when you do that you can create some momentum and keep it.”
The Rebels got a two-goal effort from Kai Uchacz while defenceman Christoffer Sedoff recorded three assists to extend his points streak to six games.
All told, the Rebels veterans led the way while rookie Carson Birnie notched his first-ever WHL goal in just his second game and Dwayne Jean Jr. scored his first as a Rebel and third of the season.
“I thought our leaders did a great job, Grubbey (Jayden Grubbe), Uchar (Uchacz) and Seds (Sedoff) all stepped up,” said Konowalchuk. “We had a couple of guys out today and you need your best guys to be your best guys, and our top end guys certainly were.
“Also the guys who got the opportunity to play played a solid game. It was a solid game throughout. The leaders led the way and the guys who got the extra minutes proved they can play extra minutes.”
The Rebels opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first period when Uchacz buried the rebound of a point shot by Sedoff.
Birnie then scored on a two-on-one break with affiliate player Escalus Burlock, beating netminder Tyler Palmer high to the blocker side. The Royals cut the lead to one with a power-play tally late in the period, Teague Patton beating goaltender Rhett Stoesser from the right circle.
Uchacz potted his team-leading ninth of the season at 10:10 of the middle frame, finding the back of the net with a high wrister from the left circle.
“Coming into the season I wanted to be a guy who contributes,” said the 19-year-old winger, who’s on pace for a 48-goal campaign after scoring 14 in 52 games last season.
“Over the summer I worked on my shots. They’re going in right now and I have a lot of guys supporting me.”
Matteo Fabrizi extended Red Deer’s lead to 4-1 three minutes later, his wrist shot from the point finding its way through a crowd.
Jean Jr., recently acquired from the Tri-City Americans, broke to the net during a Rebels penalty kill early in the third period and finished off a three-way passing play with Sedoff, who made a perfect feed, and Jace Isley.
His trio of assists on the night gave Sedoff 11 in nine games.
“He plays the game the right way every game,” said Konowalchuk. “He can drive the pace of the game out there and I’m not surprised he’s getting assists. He’s a real good defenceman and a real good leader for us.”
Isley potted the Rebels’ final goal — a power play tally — shortly after. Larson sent Isley in alone and the veteran forward went forehand to backhand to slip the puck through Palmer’s pads.
The Royals got a late man advantage marker from Reggie Newman, but on a night the Rebels owned the puck the outcome was never in doubt.
Stoesser faced only 15 shots while posting his third win of the season.
“We’ve been focusing on being a good defensive team. We’re coming back as forwards and our D corps is really solid,” said Uchacz. “They’ve been doing a great job.”
The Rebels can go to 12-0-0-0 and tie the WHL record for victories to begin a season with a win over the visiting Vancouver Giants Friday. From there, their next nine games are on the road.
“It’s been a lot of fun. The guys are gelling together,” said Uchacz. “We had a lot of guys come in tonight who hadn’t played in a while and stepped up. It was much needed, we needed everyone for the win tonight.”
“Honestly, we don’t focus on it too much,” Konowalchuk said of the team’s out-of-the-gate winning streak.
“It’s one game at a time. Don’t look at the big picture, don’t look ahead. The guys are having a lot of fun and they’re committed.”
Notable: With sniper Ben King out for six to eight weeks with a lower body injury, centres Ollie Josephson and Arjun Bawa and defenceman Mats Lindgren out day-to-day, the Rebels summoned Burlock and also gave little-used Birnie and defenceman Quentin Bourne regular shifts . . . . Palmer made 21 saves before being replaced by Logan Cunningham following Isley’s goal. Cunningham turned aside all four shots he faced the rest of the way . . . The Rebels swept the three-star selections — (1) Uchacz, (2) Sedoff, who was a plus-4 player, and (3) Fabrizi, who picked up an assist and was plus-one on the evening . . . . Craig Armstrong and Jace Weir each garnered two assists . . . The recorded attendance was 2,757 . . . The Rebels were one-for-three on the power play, the Royals two-for-four.