The Red Deer Rebels have wrapped up another season following Saturday night’s loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers, 4-3.
The Tigers won the series 4-1, moving on to the second round of playoffs against the winner of the Kootenay/Calgary series.
Head coach/general manager for the Rebels, Brent Sutter stated in a year-end press conference on Monday afternoon that although the Rebels came out on the bottom of the match up against Medicine Hat he was proud of the way his team played.
“It was a tight series,” he said, “When you look at four of those games they were all one goal games and could’ve gone either way, and the other game was a goal game on an empty net.
“When it came to crunch time in game five it could’ve gone either way but it was probably the best game of the entire series.”
Although Sutter was disappointed to see the season end he stated he, “Feels good about the team heading into next season.”
Sutter’s excitement is warranted as the 2015/2016 season will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for not only himself and the team, but for Central Alberta also as they will be hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup.
The nationally-televised tournament will be broadcast live with over two million people tuning in to watch as the Rebels face off against the champions of the CHL’s three member leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and the Western Hockey League (WHL).
As the Rebels are granted access to the elite tournament as hosts, Sutter hopes to strive for more than just host access and instead hopes his team will enter their home tournament as the champions of their league.
“Yes, it’s great that we are hosting the cup, it’s great for our City and it’s exciting for us all,” he explains.
“But at the end of the day, if we are going into the Memorial Cup, we want to be a team that is competing seriously in our want to be at the top of our league going into the Cup and that’s our goal.”
Following the announcement that Red Deer was to host the Cup, Sutter explained big changes would be needed to prepare them for the season ahead.
“Your team is built from within,” said Sutter. “You need to draft well and get the kids in at the right time and we feel like we’ve done that with this group and next year it will be time to run with it.”
Sutter added that going into the season the coaching staff knew the season would be a building process to prepare for the 2015/16 season.
“We did some things that were huge additions to our team this year, and we were different than a lot of teams in the league in that we expected a lot out of our 17-year-olds,” said Sutter. “We were a young team this year and we made a lot of changes but I think it will play out.”
With five returning 20-year-old players, Sutter believes they are set up well heading into the season.
“It’s rare to be in this spot,” said Sutter. “We have five very quality major junior players that can be huge for us and we are excited for those five older players.
“Now we just have to figure out what direction to take them as they all have the potential to be elite players in this league.”