Rebels Resume Practice After Day Off
By Greg Meachem
Photo by Rob Wallator
And on the fourth day they rested.
Following a gruelling three-games-in-three nights stretch that kicked off their WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final with the Calgary Hitmen, the Red Deer Rebels stayed clear of the Centrium Monday.
It was a well-deserved rest for for the Rebels, who pulled out a 4-3 win Sunday at the Calgary Saddledome to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven set. The clubs split the first two games Friday and Saturday in Red Deer.
The break was necessary, Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt said Tuesday, due to not only the tight schedule but also the intensity of the first three outings.
“It was important to have the day off, especially at the level you have to play at. It’s a physical series,” he noted.
“We had to do a lot of good things in order to get two wins and we still believe there’s another level for us to get to. We have to make some adjustments, but we also have to continue to play hard, real hard, because if you don’t against that team they’re going to turn the table on you in a hurry.
“We got some opportunistic timely scoring, which was great, but our work ethic has to be at a fever pitch every shift.”
And that message will be repeated during this week’s practice sessions — which resumed Tuesday at the Kinex — leading into Friday’s fourth game at the Stampede Corral.
Basically, the players will be reminded that they have to keep the pedal to the metal.
“We can’t let off at all, from now until right to the end (of the season),” said Truitt. “It has to be right down to the floor.
“There’s no room for mistakes and there’s no room to let off. We have to make sure we’re at the top of our game.”
While the Rebels are on the right side of the momentum factor, Truitt doesn’t anticipate the five-day gap between between the third and fourth contests being a problem for the club.
“I don’t think so, (in fact) it’s certainly helped us with getting a bit of rest,” he said. “With that comes the need to get the intensity up right away and that’s where these practices are so important now.”
While the Rebels just recently lost the services of forwards Conner Bleackley and Ivan Nikolishin to injury and netminder Rylan Toth is still listed as day-to-day, the return of defenceman Josh Mahura was a positive through the first three games of the series.
Mahura was back in uniform for Game 1 after sitting out five and a half months — since the second game of the regular season — while recovering from knee surgery.
“The first game we just wanted to get his feet wet a bit and I thought he did a real good job,” said Truitt. “In the second game he saw more ice time and got better and better as the game went on.
“in Game 3, just like any player playing three-in-three, it was about keeping it simple and just making sure you’re not making the big mistake. Just keep it as basic as you can and I thought he did a good job.”
Nikolishin, meanwhile, is listed as week-to-week with a lower body injury. He was slammed into the end boards by Calgary defenceman Colby Harmsworth in the first period of Saturday’s contest, was helped to the Rebels dressing room and hasn’t played since.
The WHL head office announced Tuesday that Harmsworth has been suspended three games for the incident, which resulted in a boarding major and game misconduct. Harmsworth served the first game of the sentence Sunday.
With Bleackley likely gone for the rest of the season — including the Memorial Cup tournament in late May at the Centrium — and Nikolishin, the club’s leading scorer during the regular season, currently on crutches, the Rebels will have to dig deeper offensively.
“Injuries are unfortunate and it’s alway tough when you lose another top-nine forward,” said GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “But it also gives an opportunity for another player to step up.”
Game 5 of the series is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Centrium. Sixth and seventh games, if required, will be played Monday in Calgary and next Wednesday in Red Deer.