One third done.
Two thirds to go.
After Friday night’s 4-2 win over Swift Current at the Enmax Centrium and Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Oil Kings in Edmonton, the Red Deer Rebels saw their season record sit at 15-7-1-1 after the first 24 games of the season.
“Overall, we’re pleased. For the most part, we’ve played fairly well. We’ve played quite consistently, and I think most of the guys are where we expected them to be at this point,” said Rebels head coach and vice president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin when asked to assess his squad after the first third of the year.
“As far as our record is concerned, to be honest, I’m a little bit disappointed. There was an opportunity there to have a few more wins under our belt and I think there were some very winnable games that we let go of early in the season. We had a game in Medicine Hat where we didn’t play real well, but outside of that, I thought in most of the games, we played well enough to win, but for one reason or another, we either handed a point back or we just didn’t dig in enough to win the hockey game.”
That’s a far cry from where the Rebels were sitting last season, where after the first 24 games, Red Deer had a record of 12-12 and struggled a bit with consistency.
But that was then and this is now, and Wallin says this team is much different than the squad that skated in Rebels’ colours last year.
“Overall, we’re sitting in the top three in the conference which is great, but I think we could be sitting higher,” admitted Wallin, who is in his third year as the main man behind the bench and has taken this team from the bottom echelon of the league to right near the top.
“But there’s also a lot to build off of. The consistency in our game has been very good, the group we have is a very hard working group and they come to the rink every day to get better. Their practice habits are very good and they work hard. “Again, we’ve played well in just about every game, with the odd exception of a period here or there. The only game I thought we played really poorly in was this past Saturday.”
In that game against the Oil Kings, the Rebels were held off the score sheet for just the second time this season, and Wallin hopes his club took something from that one.
“Our guys learned a great lesson on Saturday that if you don’t prepare to play, and you don’t show up, you’re going to get embarrassed,” he said.
“I think the guys thought it was going to be an easy night, going in there against a team with seven wins and they made us look not very good. It’s a good lesson for them to learn. Regardless of your record or how good you are, you have to be prepared to play and not just play, but play to win every night. If you’re not prepared, it’s not going to happen for you,” Wallin continued.
“Again, the consistency of our play has been there, it’s really just about this group developing the mindset that they’re going to win every night. That’s where we’re striving to get to right now as a group.”
The second third of the season started last night for the Rebels when they hosted the team they are chasing for top spot in the Central division and the Eastern conference, the Kootenay Ice (results unavailable by press time).
Red Deer will be in Lethbridge tonight for the first time this year since a 7-3 pre-season loss at the hands of the Hurricanes.