The head man of the Red Deer Rebels was probably the happiest to see the curtain come down on the 2011/202 season.
With so many injuries to key players the team seemingly faced more than its share of adversity.
“It really took its toll on the players, the coaches and the fans,” said head coach Jesse Wallin. But a new day has dawned and the Rebels have hit the ice for training camp this week with a fresh outlook and maybe some new faces in the lineup.
“We don’t have a real big camp, we’ve only got five or six invited players coming to our main camp,” said Wallin. “They’re all guys we feel are going to push for a spot that can possibly make our team.”
Turner Elson from a couple of years ago is a good example of a player invited to camp and wound up wearing the Rebels colours, said Wallin.
“There’s not many of them that come along but if you can get one of those guys that can be an impact player for you it makes you better.”
Most of these invites played midget hockey last year, a mix of defensemen and forwards from across the prairies. Wallin added none of these 18-year-olds played junior hockey but the door is open to the WHL for them at this camp.
“It’s going to be a short camp so the message they’ve all been told is they have to come in and make a bang right off the hop.”
Returning players are all healthy according to Wallin, including last year’s starting goalie Patrik Bartosak who has been skating over the summer.
“He’s an impact player and he proved last year what he is capable off and we expect him to continue to improve and get better and being healthy is the first step to that,” said Wallin.
Joel Hamilton was one player whose injury last season gave the staff the most concern but he has been skating and feeling good, said Wallin.
Kayle Doetzel progressed throughout the year and when players started going down with injuries he stepped in to play a lot of minutes on the blue line for the Rebels.
He too was injured, missing the remainder of the season so there is an expectation for him to return and be stronger given his recent experience at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
He was the seventh player back on the blue line so he didn’t get a lot of ice time but the coaching staff were happy with his play, said Wallin.
If there was a silver lining in all the damage last year it was allowing players like Stephen Hak and Aaron Borejko to gain experience with more ice time which bodes well for the team.
“The job now for all those young guys coming in is to use that experience to their advantage,” said Wallin. As for scoring, it will come from the usual suspects like Charles Inglis, Adam Kambeitz and Colton Mayor, whom the coach singled out.
“He’s a guy that we expect a real big season from. He’s a very talented young guy and took strides last year prior to getting hurt.”
Brooks Maxwell and Joel Hamilton put up decent numbers according to the coach and are in that mix as well. “Everybody has got to raise their level and continue to improve and create offence for us.”
Wallin said he will also be able to focus more on just the coaching part of his job as owner Brent Sutter is back to help with the general manager duties.
The Rebels annual black and white game goes Aug. 29th with the puck drop at 7 p.m.