Rebels 3 Oil Kings 1
While the younger set has been impressive during training camp and two WHL preseason games, a pair of Red Deer Rebels prospects are starting to pull away from the pack.
Forwards Austin Schellenberg and River Fahey provided all the scoring for the home team in Saturday’s 3-1 Rebels preseason tournament victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Centrium.
“They’ve played well. They’ve played well since Day 1, since camp started,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “I don’t know if it’s surprising, but at the same time it’s certainly good to see and I thought all of our kids were good tonight.
“They’re young guys who are learning the pace, but certainly River and Scheller stood out tonight.”
Fahey, 16, potted two goals, including the eventual winner — his second in as many nights — and a clinching empty-netter, while Schellenberg, 17, provided the Rebels’ opening marker.
“Scheller was here last year (and played two regular-season games before being reassigned to his hometown midget AAA team in Grande Prairie) so we knew he’d certainly bring some skill,” said Sutter. “River has certainly been a pleasant surprise.”
Following a scoreless opening period, Davis Koch gave the Oil Kings a brief lead when he connected at 12:43 of the middle frame with Rebels defenceman Carson Sass serving a holding penalty.
Schellenberg replied five minutes later with a nifty goal, hauling in a stretch pass from Zak Smith, busting in alone and beating stopper Liam Hughes to the top of the net.
Fahey made it a 2-1 contest 2:51 into the third period when he buried a rebound from close range — with Smith drawing another assist — and then sealed the deal in the final minute with an empty-net tally from inside the Red Deer blueline.
Edmonton was one-for-six on the power play, while the hosts were denied during three man-advantage occasions.
“We took some penalties, more than we would have liked to, especially in a tight game,” said Sutter. “But I thought the (penalty killers) did a good job.
“The game had its moments. There wasn’t a lack of work ethic from both teams. Both teams worked and battled. The momentum went both ways. It went back and forth.”
After a ho-hum first period that featured very few — if any — legitimate scoring chances, the teams opened it up somewhat in the middle stanza.
“Guys get a feel for the game and they get playing,” said Sutter. “There wasn’t a lot of neutral zone play tonight, it was in one zone or the other and all the goalies were good.”
Rookie Byron Fancy guarded the Red Deer net through the first 40 minutes while making 16 saves, including a breakaway stop on Nick Bowman. Veteran Riley Lamb turned aside all 11 shots he faced in the final frame.
The Rebels directed 10 shots at Oil Kings starter Josh Dechaine without finding the back of the net. Hughes came up with 16 saves and surrendered two goals over the final 28 minutes.
The victory, coupled with Friday’s 5-3 conquest of the Calgary Hitmen, gave the Rebels a 2-0 preseason mark. The team will resume practice Monday to prepare for the Tri-City Americans exhibition tournament next weekend in Kennewick, Wash.
“It’s nice to win, but the most important thing is that the team plays hard and competes and all the managers, coaches and scouts see things they want to see,” said Sutter. “Hopefully each team got what they wanted out of this.
“It’s certainly been encouraging from my standpoint. I do like our kids a lot, even the ones who have gone home already.”
One night after reassigning forward Justin Svenson and defenceman Nic Draffin, Sutter reassigned four more players following Saturday’s game. Sent home to prepare for the upcoming season with their respective midget AAA teams were Fancy, a Lethbridge product, defenceman Ryan Gottfried of Winnipeg and forwards Ethan Rowland of Calgary and Arshdeep Bains of Surrey, B.C.
The moves leaves the Rebels with 29 players and a handful will be attending pro camps in short order, giving the remaining prospects more opportunities to prove they belong.
“Again, it’s about developing and making sure we don’t put our young players in tough spots and making sure everyone is playing,” said Sutter. “That’s what you want.”
° In Saturday’s earlier game, Ethan O’Rourke’s goal at 9:13 of the third period was the winner as the Prince George Cougars downed the Calgary Hitmen 2-1.
Josh Maser notched a first-period goal for the Cougars and Zach Huber pulled the Hitmen even with a power play tally at 3:47 of the third period.
Isaiah Di Laura stopped all 17 shots he faced before Taylor Gauthier took over in the Cougars net for the final 26 minutes and blocked 13 of 14 shots. Matthew Armitage made 31 saves for the Hitmen in a complete game performance.
Prince George finished the tournament with a 2-0 record. Calgary — a 5-3 loser to Red Deer Friday — finished 0-2.