Rebels defenceman Sakowich a prime example of WHL endurance

Photo by Rob Wallator

Ethan Sakowich admitted that his milestone mark of 200 WHL games played snuck up on him.

“I was just telling Mooner (Rebels’ radio play-by-play broadcaster Cam) that it just seems like a couple years ago I was sitting in math class getting drafted by the team,” the Rebels veteran defenceman said Monday.

“I never would have thought that I’d be playing 200 games after that.”

Sakowich, who was selected in the third round —46th overall — of the 2014 WHL bantam draft, played four WHL games as a 16-year-old and joined the Rebels on a full-time basis the following season of 2016-17.

He’s improved from season to season and is currently enjoying a career year with a plus-11 rating. The Athabasca native, who played major bantam hockey in Fort Saskatchewan, has also scored four goals and collected 15 points — both career highs — this season.

Sakowich hit the 200-game mark Friday versus Brandon, then surpassed that standard of excellence the following night against Kootenay. He’ll play game No. 202 Tuesday when the Edmonton Oil Kings visit the Centrium.

Red Deer and Edmonton hooked up in a home-and-home set Feb. 22-23 and after falling 2-1 in a game they could easily have won in the provincial capital, the Rebels were never really in the rematch the following evening at the Centrium, a 5-2 loss.

“That’s fair to say. I’m not exactly sure what happened the second game but we definitely own them from that last game so I know it’s going to be an exciting game tomorrow,” said Sakowich.

“They’re a really skilled team. They have four lines that can play so it’s important that we stick to our structure and we play physical because we’re at our best when we’re all battling and playing physical.”

With top defenceman Alex Alexeyev out week-to-week with a knee injury he suffered Friday, the six-foot-two, 190-pound Sakowich will almost certainly play extra minutes Tuesday and moving forward.

“Alex is our best player, he’s really the engine that drives our team,” said Sakowich, who celebrated his 20th birthday Feb. 4.

“With somebody like that being out, we all have to step up . . . older guys, younger guys. We can’t change our roles, we all just have to play our roles a little bit better.”

The Rebels are tied with the Medicine Hat Tigers for the first wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand, and will engage the Tigers in a proverbial four-pointer Wednesday in the southern Alberta city.

Brandon is four points back of Red Deer with three regular-season games remaining.

The Rebels close out their regular season schedule this weekend with a home date with the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday and a Sunday afternoon engagement with the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook.

Rebels vs. Edmonton Oil Kings

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Centrium

Edmonton sports a 39-18-4-4 record and is tied with Lethbridge for first place in the Central Division with a game in hand . . . The Oil Kings, 9-1-0-0 in their last 10 outings, are led up front by RW Trey Fix-Wolansky who sits fourth in league scoring with 100 points (36g,64a). Overagers C Vince Loschiavo (33-25-58 in 60 games) and RW Quinn Benjafield (15-35-50 in 51 games) are second and third in team scoring, while D Conner McDonald (18-30-48) and LW Carter Souch (10-35-45) have each broken the 40-point barrier . . . Dylan Myskiw is seventh among WHL goaltenders with a 2.58 goals-against average. He owns a 25-11-2 record and has a save percentage of .913. Back-up Todd Scott is 10-3-2-0 with a 2.91 GAA and .903 save percentage . . . Fix-Wolansky was selected by Columbus in the seventh round of last year’s NHL entry draft. D Matthew Robertson is projected as a likely first-round pick this year . . . Edmonton has won five of seven games versus Red Deer this season.

Injuries — Edmonton: LW Jalen Luypen (upper body, day-to-day). Red Deer: D Alex Alexeyev (lower body, week-to-week).

Special teams — Edmonton: Power play 22.6 per cent, seventh overall; penalty killing 80.2 per cent, eighth. Red Deer: Power play 17.8 per cent, 17th overall; penalty killing 77.3 per cent, 13th.

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