With less than two weeks of hockey left in the WHL regular season, the Red Deer Rebels find themselves in ninth place and out of a playoff spot. But Red Deer’s favourite hockey team isn’t going to roll over and die.
“At this point of the year, we’ve just got to focus on what we can control. At the end of the day for us to get in (to the playoffs) we need some help,” said Assistant Coach Bryce Thoma.
“You don’t want to go down without swinging,” adds Alex Petrovic, assistant captain. “Every game from here on we have to win and I know Jesse (Wallin) doesn’t want us to quit or give up.”
And on Saturday against the Saskatoon Blades, the true character of the Rebels came out.
Well not in the first period, where they were outshot 14-7. No, it was after that, when the Rebels showed that they were not going to let this season go without a fight.
“After that first period we regrouped,” said Petrovic. “The blades have been struggling here lately, so we kind of took advantage of that.”
And it may be late in the year, but 17-year-old backup goaltender Bolton Pouliot recorded his first victory at the Centrium and his second career victory in the WHL.
“Bolton’s been playing great. I know he played great in Kamloops, he won us that game and Saturday night he won us that game too,” explained Petrovic. “To me it doesn’t matter (who is in net) we know we have to limit our 28 shots a night and I know both those guys can handle that.”
Thoma agreed. “At the end of the day, the goalie is back there, his job is to stop the puck. Everyone else, the other five guys are out there to limit the chances against him. And hopefully, put three or four in the net going the other way to give us a chance to win.”
For Petrovic, a Florida Panthers prospect, this will be his last season as a Red Deer Rebel. “It’s always a fun year playing junior hockey,” he said.
“This is my fourth year here. Last year we won a lot of games, we had a lot of fun last year. This year, it’s a new group of guys, I had just as much fun this year. Even with all the losing skids we’ve been on, I think (it) brought us closer together. Without the losing we had a great year.”
So what will Petrovic bring with him when he leaves the snow of Red Deer for the sandy beaches of Miami?
“I gained a lot of confidence this year just with moving my feet, rushing the puck a little more. And I think my offensive ability, I know I had to bring a little more of that this year especially with all the injuries we had throughout the year.”
Petrovic wanted to add another dimension to his strong defensive play this year. “Just being a two-way defenseman, that’s what I want to prove to be and I know my defensive abilities really well. I also know I have to work on my offensive abilities, so I think this year with the injuries the defense had to help out offensively and I think that helped personally, too.”