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Rebels hoping to bond, find positives, on lengthy road trip

Photo by Rob Wallator

The Red Deer Rebels haven’t exactly been enjoying all the comforts of home.

In eight games at the Centrium in this, the 2019-20 Western Hockey League season, the Rebels have scooped a mere four points. And now the club is preparing to head out on a doozy of a road trip — six games in nine days — starting Friday in Moose Jaw.

If a team can’t win on even a semi-regular basis at home, is it possible to reverse those fortunes in enemy territory? Actually, Rebels assistant captain Ethan Sakowich is of the opinion that the upcoming foray into the Eastern Division may be just what the physician ordered.

“It will good for us as a team to get on the road. We spend lots of time together on the road and get to bond a little more as a team,” said the fourth-year rearguard.

“It’s just good for us to have that routine where we’re all doing the same thing. I think this road trip will be pretty successful for us.”

There have been teams, even Rebels teams, that have thrived on the road over the years, often playing a better brand of hockey than what they displayed at home.

“There’s a lot of things involved. There’s not as much pressure for example,” said Sakowich. “I don’t think it really affects our team but for some of the younger guys there is pressure playing in front of the home crowd.

“We have more guys going on the road and I think it’s good for our team, just that routine that we all do at the same time. I think it’s good for us.”

Red Deer’s lone prior trip this season was a two-gamer in the first week of October. The club won both outings, in Swift Current and Medicine Hat, and can possibly build off that.

“It was a good trip for us,” said Sakowich. “It was a short one but we all came together which helped our team a lot.

“It’s fun playing on the road. It’s more fun playing at home obviously, but there’s a different atmosphere, a different aspect, on the road. It’s lots of fun.”

The Rebels lost both of their games last week, falling 4-3 to Lethbridge and picking up a single point in a 5-4 shootout loss to Seattle. Red Deer’s even-strength play versus Lethbridge was encouraging and perhaps a sign of things to come.

“There’s a lot of ways we’re getting better as a team,” said Sakowich, “but for us to be successful as a team we need all parts of our game going at the same time.

“A couple of games ago we had really good five-on-five play but our PK (penalty kill) killed us. For us to be successful we need everything going at once. It’s coming, for sure.”

Following Friday’s contest, the Rebels take on the Regina Pats Sunday afternoon, then visit Brandon and Winnipeg during the week and wrap up the marathon excursion with weekend contests in Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

Red Deer’s next home game is Nov. 15 versus Medicine Hat.

° Rebels prospects Carter Anderson, Hunter Mayo, Jhett Larson and Jace Weir were impactful in the WHL Cup tournament which concluded Sunday in Calgary.

Anderson fired four goals and added an assist in five games for Manitoba, which fell 4-2 to Saskatchewan in the gold-medal contest.

His goal at 19:59 of the third period lifted Manitoba to a 5-4 win over British Columbia in a Saturday semifinal. Meanwhile, Mayo scored in the other semifinal, which Saskatchewan won over Alberta 5-3, and finished with three goals and one helper.

Larson contributed one goal and four assists for Saskatchewan, while Weir notched the overtime goal in B.C.’s 5-4 bronze-medal victory over Alberta, in which Rebels netminder prospect Justen Maric turned aside 23 shots and finished the tournament with a 2.91 goals-against average and .885 save percentage.

Another Rebels bantam draft pick, Parker Lalonde, was pointless in five games for Saskatchewan.

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