END OF YEAR - The Red Deer Rebels cleaned out their lockers after a year that saw them rise from the bottom of the WHL to a playoff spot. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

Rebels clean out lockers after season of ups and down

Rebels went from last in WHL to a playoff series against Lethbridge

There won’t be many, if any, seasons that play out the way this one did for the Red Deer Rebels.

After falling to last place in the WHL prior to Jan. 23rd, the Rebels completely flipped the script on their season — pushing themselves to a third place in the WHL’s Central Division and a five-game hard-fought series against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Coach Brent Sutter said his team learned a lot throughout the series, in which they eventually lost four games to one.

“When you look at the series and go through the five games, the first two games I thought our team learned a lot through the process of learning what it takes to be a physical team,” he said. “They came at us pretty hard and we didn’t respond too well in the first two games.”

Following Games 1 and 2, which they lost 6-0 and 8-3 respectively, the Rebels were arguably the better team for the remainder of the series — with a Game 3 loss being a tough blow with two goals called back on home ice.

The Rebels were also up a goal heading into the third period of Game 5, before ultimately losing 6-4

“We went back to Lethbridge and for two periods, we were right there,” Sutter said. “When you give up six, eight and five goals against in the first three games, you aren’t normally going to win too many playoff games doing that.”

Despite the early playoff exit, Sutter credited his team for playing much better defensively in the second half of the season, shifting their goals against average from 3.8 down to 2.8 after Jan. 23rd.

“I thought our team started making some changes in the right direction when we started bringing in some of the young kids,” Sutter said. “It pushed the older guys we did keep here to be better players and they were.”

Sutter added he hopes the lessons of this year will carry on to next season.

“We are going to be a younger team next year again and those young guys that had bigger roles this year have to continue to improve and get better in their roles,” he said.

Sutter compared the young nucleus he is currently operating with to his teams in the early 2000s when the Rebels went on to win a Memorial Cup.

“There is a lot of encouraging signs moving forward but we have to make sure these young kids understand the commitment that has to be made,” he said.

Seventeen-year-old Goaltender Ethan Anders, who won multiple goaltender of the week awards this season, figures to play strongly into that youth movement.

“When he comes back as an 18-year-old, there is going to be higher standards on him. You can’t have those nights where you let in a couple soft goals. The standards become higher for you,” Sutter said.

The end of the year also marks the end of Rebels Captain Grayson Pawlenchuk’s, Brandon Hagel’s and Mason McCarty’s WHL careers.

Sutter credited Pawlenchuk, who played five straight years for the Rebels, with always being strong though multiple injuries, including a fractured elbow that cost him nearly three months and a long rehab process.

“Pawly was a very responsible player and is a great young man,” Sutter said. “Hopefully something good will come out of this for him.

“Maybe he can go to a pro camp and get a chance, if not he can go to a real good CIS school and continue to play.”

Pawlenchuk said it hasn’t sank in yet that his time with the Rebels is complete.

“I learned a lot here and grew a lot. Looking back to how I was when I was 15 or 16 here, compared to how I am now — I have grown up a lot and matured a lot,” Pawlenchuk said. “I am very thankful for my time here and everything the Rebels have done for me.”

Pawlenchuk said he hopes to get on with a pro tryout somewhere but he also has other options.

“Hopefully I will get a pro tryout, but if not I will definitely be going to school and using the scholarship that I have run up,” he said.

Sutter said that McCarty was a solid player for his team, leading the team in goal scoring and assists.

“It was exciting and fun.,” McCarty said. “Hopefully I helped the young kids learn some stuff. I will be following them all in the future.”

Buffalo Sabres prospect Hagel said being a leader for the young kids on the Rebels was huge for him.

“Overall the start of our season wasn’t what we wanted but as we moved along we got some kids in here and it was awesome,” Hagel said. “It was a good experience for myself to go through something like that.

“Bringing in the younger guys and me having to be a bigger leader helped me be a better person.”

He added he is going to take the next few days to evaluate everything and speak with his agent regarding his future.

Sutter said he was proud of his team for turning around the season.

“Who would have thought in January that we would ever get to the playoffs. People would have thought I was crazy,” he said.

editor@lacombeexpress.com

todd.vaughan@redddeerexpress.com

Like us on facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/Lacombeexpress/

and follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/lacombeexpress.

Just Posted

Red Deer’s newest outdoor ice facility opens to the public this week

The speed skating oval at Setters Place at Great Chief Park will be open Dec. 17th

Yellow Vests protestors take to Red Deer streets

Trudeau government’s immigration and oil industry policies denounced at rally

Rebels lose to Medicine Hat Tigers, 4-1

Tigers break Rebels’ three-game winning streak

Exhibition explores the rich history and culture of Métis people

The exhibition is on display from Dec. 15th to March 10th at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery

2019 Hockey Alberta Provincial Championship host sites announced

A total of 39 Provincial Championships will be hosted across the province

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

CFIA announces recall of some types of cauliflower, lettuce due to E. coli fears

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has announced a recall of certain types of cauliflower and lettuce due to possible E. coli contamination.

Canadians spent almost $64,000 on goods and services in 2017

Households in B.C. each spent $71,001 with housing costs contributing to higher average

Speaker at rally says Alberta oil ‘puts tofu on the table in Toronto!’

RCMP estimated more than 1,500 people attended the rally in Grande Prairie

White House closer to partial shutdown with wall demand

Without a resolution, parts of the federal government will shut down at midnight on Friday, Dec. 21

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

Most Read