The Red Deer Rebels had better get used to long bus rides across the prairies.
The Rebels kick off a five game Eastern road trip tonight when they stop in Moose Jaw to battle the Warriors.
Red Deer got its last taste of home cooking for a while this past weekend when they lost 2-1 in a shootout to Regina, the second consecutive home shootout loss to the Pats.
It was a much different story in Cranbrook on Saturday, where the Rebels picked up their first road win against Kootenay this season, beating the Ice 6-1.
“It was a real good team effort,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin after Saturday’s game in B.C.
“I thought, for the most part, everybody through our line up from the goaltender on out, played very well. It was just a more concerted effort. We scored six goals and that’s a big difference compared to scoring just one in a hockey game.
“I thought we bore down on our opportunities, and we had a little more urgency to finish our plays off and overall, played a pretty structured game.”
Brett Ferguson paced the offense for Red Deer, tallying two goals and three assists to lead all Western League scorers on Saturday, and that effort did not go unnoticed by his coach.
“He was a difference maker out there,” said Wallin, who had to juggle his line up a bit after finding out that Byron Froese had been suspended by the WHL for an elbowing major and game misconduct against Regina on Friday.
“He turned it up a notch and obviously, with Froese being out of the line up, that was a bit of a hit with his suspension for this one, so we needed some of those guys to step up and I thought he played real well. I thought Adam Kambeitz played real well. That’s what needs to happen. We feel we’ve got depth on our team and when those things happen, you need guys to step up and pick up the slack and those guys did that.”
Alex Petrovic, Matt Dumba, Justin Weller and Locke Muller had the other goals for Red Deer, while Darcy Kuemper, who started both weekend games kicked out 22 shots and was just 3:05 away from posting his seventh shutout of the season, but Ice blueliner James Martin broke the goose egg with a late powerplay goal.
“We didn’t give up too much, and I thought our penalty kill was very good again, even though we gave up the late goal,” said Wallin.
“Overall, to come into this building, it’s tough place to play in against a good team, and I was real happy with our guys’ effort.”
With the win, Red Deer improved to 25-12-1-4, which is good for third place in the Eastern Conference standings, two points back of Kootenay and one point up on Medicine Hat.
Notes: Rebels forward Josh Cowen will be eligible to return to the line up Jan. 22 when Red Deer hosts Moose Jaw. He was suspended eight games by the WHL for punching Blades defenseman Stefan Elliott in a 7-3 loss in Saskatoon on New Year’s Day….The Rebels didn’t make any moves ahead of Monday’s WHL trade deadline. Wallin said they made some inquiries, but that asking prices were pretty high, and the club wasn’t willing to part with any of their young roster players…Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the third best player in North America according to NHL Central Scouting. They released their mid-term rankings on Monday, and Nugent-Hopkins is ranked third amongst North American skaters ahead of the NHL Entry Draft this summer.