The Rebels started the long journey towards post-season success last week when they opened their preseason at home with their annual black and white game – followed by two preseason wins against both their QEII rivals.
The black and white game was highlighted by right winger Mason McCarty who has looked solid throughout camp.
“It is kind of hard out there with new systems and stuff,” McCarty said. “Both teams played hard and this team is going to be good for a lot of years. I like the compete level. Guys were picking each other up on the bench and when you have that camaraderie, it makes things a lot easier.”
Coach Brent Sutter was liking the direction the Rebels are heading, following the game.
“It was good. We had a little bit of offence and we have seen things we have wanted to see, which is good for young kids and veterans alike,” he said. “There was traffic; we like to see that. There were good plays made and there is speed on this team. They like to use the attack. I was impressed. It was a good intrasquad game.”
The Rebels followed up their black and white game with 5-3 win over the Calgary Hitmen, with Lasse Peterson and Ethan Anders stopping nine and 15 saves each. Newly acquired centre Kristian Reichel finished the hat trick in the win, with right winger Chris Douglas and River Fahey adding the extras.
Defensemen Lane Toder, left winger Justyn Gurney and right winger Hunter Campbell scored for the Hitmen.
The Rebels followed that up with a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings. Goalies Riley Lamb and Byron Fancy shared the win with 11 and 16 saves respectively
Fahey notched two goals in the win, with Austin Schellenberg adding one of his own. Oil Kings Davis Koch added the only Edmonton goal.
The Rebels roster, at press time, has been trimmed down to 29 players. Fancy – who looked solid throughout camp – was sent down to the availability of both Lamb and Peterson on the roster between the pipes.
Despite the cuts, Sutter saw a lot in the up and comers.
“It has been good because you can see where the kids are at,” he said. “Some of them might be a little bit tired but this is major junior hockey. It is every day and some days twice a day. It has been good for them. You get to see who understands it and gets it. There isn’t one young kid that doesn’t and the veterans handed it well too.
“It says a lot about what Randy (Peterson), Shaun (Sutter) and our scouting staff has done finding the talent for how we want to play. The game is a lot of speed and skill now. The good thing about this is we have some guys that can do that, but we also have big bodies.”
The big bodies allow for an added level of physicality, according to Sutter.
“Some of these kids have grown an inch or two since prospects camp,” he said. “They are more confident and physically involved. They have put on 10-15 pounds. They can handle the veterans and can compete with them. There is more intensity today than if you had played this game in June.”
McCarty is expecting a good season for the quick-footed Rebels.
“Anything short of the best, I would see as a failure,” he said. “We are going to push for deep into the post-season and we never want to finish second at anything. That is our goal.”
The Rebels play Friday at Tri-city, followed by a home game on Saturday against the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Rebels open their regular season at home against Edmonton on Sept. 23rd at 7 p.m.