Rebels to face desperate Broncos in weekend series

Rob Wallator

The Red Deer Rebels will be aware of one certainty when they take on the Swift Current Broncos in a rare WHL home-ice doubleheader Friday and Saturday.

When the Rebels take to the ice at the Peavey Mart Centrium, they’ll be facing a desperate Broncos squad. 

Swift Current is currently sitting outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference following a Wednesday combination of a 3-2 Broncos loss to the visiting Saskatoon Blades and a 7-1 win by the host Calgary Hitmen over the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The double whammy has the Broncos entering Friday’s contest two points back of the eighth-place Hitmen, who have six regular-season games remaining as opposed to five for Swift Current.

The Rebels, therefore, can expect a determined effort from their guests, who have recorded 28 wins this season as opposed to 41 for Red Deer.

Despite sitting ninth in the conference, the Broncos have some serious weapons, including wingers Josh Filmon, Connor Hvidston (pictured above with Rebels centre Kai Uchacz) and Caleb Wyrostok, centres Matthew Ward and Josh Davies and defenceman Owen Pickering.

Filmon has notched 44 goals and recorded 70 points this season, while Ward has also put up 70 points, including 24 goals. Hvidston, meanwhile, has tallied 20 times, Wyrostok has 21 goals, Pickering has contributed nine goals and 42 points and Davies has 18 goals and has racked up 121 minutes in penalties.

Four of the aforementioned players were selected in the 2022 NHL entry draft, with Pickering going to Pittsburgh in the first round, Hvidston to Anaheim in the fifth round, Filmon to New Jersey in the sixth and Davies to Florida, also in the sixth.

Despite his lofty offensive numbers, the five-foot-eight, 171-pound Ward was passed over in last years NHL draft and was not among the 51 WHL players included in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings for the 2023 draft.

The Rebels have won two of three meetings with the Broncos this season, both in Swift Current.  Uchacz scored a late goal to lift the Rebels over the Broncos 4-3 Oct. 15 and contributed two goals and an assist in a 4-1 triumph Nov. 4.

Christoffer Sedoff recorded two assists in both games and Ben King and Kalan Lind each picked up two helpers in the Oct. 15 victory.

In the lone meeting between the teams at the Peavey Mart Centrium, Brady Birnie contributed a goal and assist in a 4-1 Broncos win Dec. 17. Carson Birnie tallied the lone goal for Red Deer.

Notable: The Rebels have a decided special teams advantage over the Broncos, with their power play currently fourth-best in the league with a success rate of 27.9 per cent and their penalty kill sixth at 80.9 per cent. Swift Current’s power play is 12th at 21.3 per cent and the team is 16th in killing penalties at 75.9 per cent . . . Uchacz enters Friday’s contest one goal short of the 50-mark and is the Rebels points leader with 81, 15 more than captain Jayden Grubbe (17-49-66) . . . Sedoff is 12th among WHL defenceman in scoring with 50 points (4-46) and fellow rearguard Hunter Mayo is sixth overall in goals with 16, including 11 on the power play . . . On the injury front, Broncos defenceman Josh Fluker is listed as day-to-day with an illness, while the Rebels injuries include Lind, who is day-to-day (upper body) and netminder Rhett Stoesser (lower body, season-ending) . . . With the recent return of goaltender Chase Coward, the Rebels have returned Chase Wutzke to the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan U18 AAA League . . . The Broncos’ roster includes former Rebels defenceman Mason Ward, acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings in January.

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