Not surprisingly, the Red Deer Rebels’ success to this point in the WHL season is tied — at least in part — to success on their special teams.
The Rebels have the fifth best power play in the league with a 25.8 per cent success rate and their penalty kill is eighth overall at 82.1 per cent.
As Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk pointed out Tuesday, hard work and attention to detail are the keys to special teams, as well as players taking a personal pride in their duties.
“I don’t think there are any secrets. You have to work harder, I believe, on special teams than you do five-on-five and the details are really important,” he said.
“A lot of people, I believe, understand the details with the penalty kill, they understand the importance of being in position on the penalty kill a bit more than on the power play. But everyone has a job to do in certain positions on the power play so the details are very important as well.
“It’s about working hard and being able to execute, also not letting down the unit because you’re not doing your job and just trying to keep pride in it.”
The Rebels have scored 24 goals on the power play this season, including a league-best nine by veteran forward Ben King (pictured above).
Meanwhile, their penalty kill has had plenty of practice as the club is currently second overall in the league with 14.9 minutes per games. That number, however, has shrunk in recent outings.
The Rebels gave up three power plays in Friday’s win over Calgary, however all three came in the first period. The following night, in a victory over Prince Albert, the visitors had four power plays.
“I think a lot of it was earlier in the season and I know we talked about it with the players,” said Konowalchuk. “We have a quota every game, we certainly try not to get too many (penalties). We want to win the special teams battles and a big part of that is getting more power plays than penalties.
“As of late I haven’t been too upset with penalties, earlier in the year it was a focal point where we had to get better.”
That being said . . .
“We’re going to get penalties. We’re going to play hard. We don’t want to play tentative,” he added.
Indeed, the Rebels play an aggressive, physical style that has yielded positive results.
“We want to finish checks if we’re not first on pucks. We want to be strong in front of our net,” said Konowalchuk. “It’s a fine line sometimes with what gets called and not called. That’s just hockey.
‘“You have to play as hard as you can and certainly within the rules, but you can’t be tip-toeing out there either.”
The Rebels bench boss is OK with certain penalties, but there are others that can cause stress for a coach.
“There are certainly penalties that you need to avoid, stick infractions, offensive penalties . . . those are the type of things you have to avoid,” he said.
“Emotional, undisciplined penalties, those you have to avoid, and I think we’ve done a better job that way as of late.”
Overall . . .
“In a lot of games special teams have been a big part of the reason we’ve been able to come up with two points,” he said.
Notable: The Rebels will take on the host Edmonton Oil Kings Wednesday without the services of forward Kalan Lind, who left Tuesday for Ottawa where he will compete in the Capital City Challenge, a four-team tournament featuring three under-17 squads and the Canadian national women’s team. The tournament runs from Thursday to Dec. 1 . . . Red Deer will host the Saskatoon Blades and the Regina Pats Friday and Saturday at the Peavey Mart Centrium.