Brent Sutter hopes his veteran Red Deer Rebels players will draw on past experience as motivation for their upcoming playoff series versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“We’ve got guys on our team from last year that I hope don’t have short-term memories. They’ve got to help us through this,” Sutter said Wednesday in reference to last year’s opening round playoff series loss to the Hurricanes.
“I know it’s a whole new year and that both teams are different looking teams than they were a year ago. But the reality is that they beat us in the playoffs last year and there’s got to be fire in everyone’s belly to dig in harder this year.”
Last year’s post-season tilt between the Rebels and Hurricanes was certainly a wild one, with Red Deer building a 3-1 series lead only to have Lethbridge come back to win in seven games.
This year’s regular season was also a rollercoaster ride as the Rebels sunk to the bottom of the WHL standings before rallying over the final two months to claim a playoff spot.
“We’re at the dance. It was certainly not an easy road to take,” Sutter admitted. “The first half of the year, it was tough going with changes and young guys getting an opportunity to play. But a lot of guys rose to the occasion and, in the last ten weeks, got their games going and got playing better. We started getting really solid goaltending every night and it’s got us to where we’re at now. We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
The Rebels were 2-2-1-1 versus Lethbridge in the regular season, with both victories coming in March.
“The last two times we’ve played them, we’ve played well. That being said, we could sit here and talk about everything, but it’s playoffs now,” Sutter noted. “The level of intensity changes, level of emotion changes, you have to raise your game up. It’s the start of a new season, but you’ve got to build on the positives and the things you’ve done well lately, too.
“Special teams have to be good, that’s going to be real important. Your best players need to be your best players. You gotta be disciplined. All those things fall on this time of year. We’ve just got to make sure that our preparation leading into it is as good as it can be and see where it takes us. I think it’s a really good matchup, both teams matchup well. Goaltending is going to be a big part of this series, too. We need our goalies to be good.”
On the other side of the ledger, Hurricanes Head Coach Brent Kisio echoed Sutter’s sentiments on the importance of being well-prepared heading into the series.
“It's been a good week. We haven't had a lot of practice time in the second half, so to get on the ice as a team for four straight days of practice has been awesome,” Kisio told Aaron Mahoney with Lethbridge News Now. “We've had some video time put in off the ice too, but I like the work we've done on the ice and the energy we have right now.”
Kisio touched on the challenge presented by the Rebels.
"If you look at Red Deer's team, their top guys in the second half of the season have been so good," he continued. "It's part of the reason they've gotten better as a team, so it's important for us to watch guys like [Brandon] Hagel and [Mason] McCarty and take away their time and space."
A focus on special teams this week, Kisio noted, is also a top priority for his team.
"We spent a whole day on it Tuesday, and that's a day more than we've been able to spend on special teams in a long time. It was needed, I think we straightened some things out, and obviously in the playoffs special teams is huge," Kisio added.
Another important thing at playoff time is discipline, and Kisio has been stressing that to his playoffs ahead of the rivalry getting renewed.
"There's not usually as many opportunities this time of year so you can play a little bit harder, but penalties do seem to cost you more especially at the wrong time. It's a fine line between playing hard and having some discipline."
Regular Season Series: Lethbridge (4-2-0-0) vs. Red Deer (2-2-1-1)
Lethbridge 2 @ Red Deer 5 (Mar 14 2018)
Red Deer 4 @ Lethbridge 1 (Mar 9 2018)
Lethbridge 2 @ Red Deer 1 (Jan 28 2018) OT
Lethbridge 6 @ Red Deer 4 (Jan 12 2018)
Red Deer 4 @ Lethbridge 5 (Jan 9 2018) SO
Red Deer 0 @ Lethbridge 4 (Dec 6 2017) Final
Red Deer Lethbridge
Team Record 27-32-10-3 -- 67 points 33-33-6-0 -- 72 points
Past 10 Games 6-4-0-0 2-8-0-0
Home Record 14-16-4-2 19-13-4-0
Away Record 13-16-6-1 14-20-2-0
GF 209 244
GA 250 260
PP (Overall) (52/278) 18.7% (67/278) 24.1%
PK (Overall) (62/280) 77.9% (69/292) 76.4%
PP vs. Opp. (5/28) 17.9% (5/21) 23.8%
PK vs. Opp. (5/21) 76.2% (5/28) 82.1%
Leading Rookie Morozoff (6-2-8) Cozens (22-31-53)
Most PIM Cutler - 82 Stanley - 103
Team PIM/GM 11.5/Game 12.2/Game
McCarty (38-36-74) Bellerive (46-46-92)
Hagel (18-41-59) Morrison (27-48-75)
Reichel (34-23-57) Addison (11-54-65)
Pawlenchuk (18-34-52) Cozens (22-31-53)
Johnson (23-16-39) Ross (21-21-42)
The Red Deer Rebels take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL playoffs for the second straight year.
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