The Red Deer Rebels are currently at a low point in their season, having dropped three consecutive WHL games while being outscored 15-3.
Is it just a mid-winter decline, which is commonplace at all levels of hockey, or has frustration set in for a team that has experienced trouble scoring and preventing goals? Are the Rebels, who have also struggled with their special teams play, squeezing their sticks?
Overage forward Jeff de Wit figures it’s a case of the mid-winter blues and that the solution comes down to performing as a group.
“Teams go through slumps, it’s part of sports,” he said Tuesday. “I think for us right now we need to get back to playing a team game.
“It starts with a team-first mentality. Everyone in that dressing room wants to win but I think we’re overthinking a bit too much right now. Maybe we’re gripping our sticks too tight.”
Another part of the solution, he suggested, is developing a more bitter hatred towards being on the wrong end of the score, something that the team has discussed in recent days.
“We all hate losing but I think we can hate losing even more than we do already,” he said. “We have to hate losing more than we love winning.
“If we can do that and figure things out . . . I’m not worried at all about our group. I think we’re just going through a little slump right now and we know we have the guys in there to get things going again.”
Captain Reese Johnson pretty much echoed his teammate’s response.
“Every team goes through something like this at some point in the year,” said the 20-year-old. “Obviously we’re not happy about going through it now but we just have to get through it together and come closer as a team.”
The Rebels’ slump has been a slow-simmering process, a few weeks in the making. As a result, a level of frustration has set in.
“When you’re experiencing something like this there is always frustration, but the older guys have to help make sure everyone is not getting too frustrated,” said Johnson. “It’s going to happen to some extent but it can’t be too much.”
Now is not the time to panic, the official on-ice team leader insisted. The Rebels know they can get back to their winning ways after being among the front-runners in the extremely competitive Central Division most of the season.
“That’s what we’ve talked about,” said Johnson. “We definitely know we can win and now we just have to get back to doing the things that were making us successful as a team.
“We have to get back on track here this weekend.”
The Rebels’ current struggles could be a silver lining in the making, Johnson noted.
“I don’t like to make comparisons, but when you look at last season the first half was pretty rocky but then we came together and became a lot better team,” he said.
“We just have to come closer and be tighter as a group. That’s what makes you better in the long run.”
The Rebels host the Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors Friday and Saturday and next week will head west for a five-game jaunt through the US Division.