The Red Deer Rebels find themselves at a crossroads in their 26th season.
The typically friendly confines of the Enmax Centrium weren’t so last Saturday as the Rebels dropped the back half of a home and home against Kootenay in their return from a seven-game road trip.
The defeat was the Rebels’ third in a row and left them with a 1-8-1 mark over their last 10 contests.
With the WHL’s second best team in town Friday night, it may be just the opportunity the Rebels need to get back on track.
Forward Jared Dmytriw, who’s tallied six goals and three assists in his first season with Red Deer, believes the Portland Winterhawks could be his team’s elixir.
“They’ve got a lot of fast forwards and some really top guys within the league and when that team is coming in, it’s always going to be a challenge,” says the Craven, SK native. “You look forward to games against the top teams. It’s been easy for us to practice this week looking ahead at the competition we have this weekend.”
Portland currently sports a record of 17-4-0 atop the Western Conference and is on an eight game winning streak. To add to the daunting task, the Winterhawks have allowed a league-low 52 goals and feature three skaters, all NHL draft picks, in the top 12 of league scoring. Golden Knights prospect Cody Glass leads the way with 12 goals and 16 assists in 21 games.
Lane Zablocki, who has just one goal and three assists in the last eight games, says the squad has shown flashes of positive play, but is consistently trailing in the latter stages of games.
“I think we need to come in with a clean slate starting tomorrow and play a full 60 minutes. We’ve yet to play a full 60 minutes this entire year,” the Detroit Red Wings prospect admits. “It’s starting to bite us, so I think we have a good squad and we believe in each other -- we need to just go out there and perform.”
As far as messaging from Head Coach Brent Sutter is concerned, Zablocki says he’s been preaching discipline above all else.
The Rebels have allowed at least one powerplay goal in their last 11 games and haven’t blanked a team on the man advantage since a 4-3 OT win at home against Spokane on October 27. In that span, they were scored on 16 times down a skater, while averaging 14.5 penalty minutes per game.
On the season, Red Deer ranks 14th in the WHL on the PK at 76.1 per cent.
“Obviously as of late, our record hasn’t been where we want it to be. Looking at our overall record for the first third, I don’t think anybody in our room is very satisfied with it and going forward, we know within that room we have a lot more to give,” Dmytriw adds. “Like Lane said, the full 60 minutes, we need to be all in every night and I think if we do that, we have a good shot at turning things around here quickly.”
Friday's game can be heard LIVE on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:30 p.m. Puck drop is at 7.
Red Deer is back on the road for a tilt against the Hitmen at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
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