One man’s misfortune can be another man’s good fortune.
Lasse Petersen isn’t thrilled about the circumstances that have made him the Red Deer Rebels starting goaltender for Saturday’s WHL regular-season opener against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, but he’s ready and willing to embrace the challenge.
Petersen was likely pencilled in as the back-up to Riley Lamb, but Lamb suffered a broken thumb in practice earlier this week and is lost to the team for a minimum of six weeks.
“I feel for my buddy Lamber, it’s a tough injury and he seemed to be in quite a bit of pain on the ice,” Petersen said Wednesday. “But of course I’ll embrace this opportunity and do the very best that I can.”
Petersen will enter the season as the Rebels’ third overage player — along with forwards Grayson Pawlenchuk and Mason McCarty — and has the full support and confidence of GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who now has the club’s third goalie — rookie Ethan Anders, 17 — as the back-up.
“He’s played in the league,” Sutter said of Petersen, acquired from the Everett Silvertips last October. “He’s a veteran goaltender who’s played in the world juniors (the past two years with Denmark) and he’s had an outstanding camp here.
“He’s played well in the (preseason) games he’s participated in. He didn’t have a chance to play much in exhibition because we wanted to see where Anders is at. But we feel strongly about what Petey can do for us and I have no problem whatever in keeping him as a 20-year-old. He’s a good goalie and we like him.”
Petersen’s spot on the roster as an overage player might still be a temporary situation and will depend upon whether Anders can prove he’s capable of performing at the major junior level.
For now, though, Sutter is grateful that Petersen is still around.
“Now with Lamber hurt, it’s scary how things work,” said Sutter. “Petey and I sat down a week to 10 days ago and talked about how things can change dramatically with an injury.
“We might have went with Petey and Lamb to start the season anyway and that might be the route we go after Oct. 10 (league cutdown date for overage players). Anders still has to prove he can play at this level.
“He (Anders) is still in our plans and we’ll get him into some games and we’ll know at a later date if he’s ready to play in the league. We’ll know whether he can handle it at this level.”
And in the event that Anders falls short . . .
“We have two veteran goaltenders we like a lot,” said Sutter.
Petersen certainly isn’t lacking in major junior experience. While he played sparingly with three others WHL clubs — Calgary, Spokane and Everett— since 2015, he got into 40 games with the Rebels last season.
“For sure, I got a bigger role here than with any other team I’ve played with in this league. I really appreciate that Brent gave me that opportunity to get some more games under my belt,” he said.
“I feel I have to transfer that into this season. Playing in the Western Hockey League is the biggest junior stage you can play on and I learned a lot last year. Now I’m just going to look to improve on that.”
Petersen, who last winter posted a 3.25 goals-against average, .896 save percentage and a 16-16-0 win/loss record, is convinced that the Rebels can be a force this season.
“I think we have a really good team this year with a lot of returning guys,” he said. “Our back end is really strong, our forwards are really strong as well and our goaltender is very good too. We have a very well-rounded team.
“The only thing I’d say after the preseason is we just have to get all our systems down for the newer guys and I’m sure the older guys will show them the way. By the time the regular season starts I’d say we’ll be set to go.”
Pawlenchuk new Rebels captain
Grayson Pawlenchuk will play his final season in the WHL as the Rebels’ official on-ice leader.
The fifth-year forward has been named team captain for the 2017-18 campaign and is naturally thrilled with the appointment.
“If’s definitely pretty special and a big honour,” he said Wednesday. “Going down the list of past captains, there’s some pretty amazing players there.
“It’s a big honour, especially with an organization like this that’s so professional and so highly rated by everyone. It’s a huge honour.”
Pawlenchuk is certain that he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m definitely ready for it. I’ve been in the league and with the same team for five years,” he said. “I know what Brent wants from the team, I know what he expects from us on and off the ice. I definitely think I’m ready for that type of leadership role.”
Supporting Pawlenchuk as assistant captains this season will be forwards Brandon Hagel, Lane Zablocki and Mason McCarty.
“They’re all veteran guys in the league too,” said Pawlenchuk. “They all kind of know that Brent wants too and they’re all great leaders as well. It’s a great supporting crew for me.”
Zablocki returned to the Rebels late Monday from the training camp of the Detroit Red Wings, while Hagel will be back from the Buffalo Sabres camp Thursday.