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Veteran defenceman Sakowich replacing Barteaux as Rebels captain

Photos by Rob Wallator

The mantle has been passed to Ethan Sakowich.

The 20-year-old defenceman was officially named captain of the Red Deer Rebels for the remainder of the WHL season Tuesday following the departure of Dawson Barteaux, traded to the Winnipeg Ice last week.

“It’s pretty cool. I’ve had a lot of good captains in my past, in my five years with this program,” said Sakowich.

“It’s going to be tough filling Barts’ shoes. I’m not looking to fill his shoes, I’ll just try and give my own take on captaincy. But I’m really excited to finish it off here.”

The transition from alternate captain to the guy wearing the ‘C’ should be a smooth one for the Athabasca native, in his fourth season with the Rebels.

“I’m not changing the way I play and the way I lead,” said Sakowich. “I think we had a good leadership group before with Barts in it and I think we just all have to keep doing what we were doing before.

“I was happy with the leadership group.”

The appointment of the veteran rearguard to the role of official on-ice leader was a no-brainer, an opinion shared by GM/head coach Brent Sutter.

“He’s been part of this (organization) for a long period of time,” said Sutter.

The Rebels boss asked Barteaux for his advice on naming a replacement and the former captain gave Sakowich a thumbs up before joining the Ice. Assistant coaches Ryan Corville, Brad Flynn and Erik Lodge also recommended that Sakowich get the nod.

“Barts is someone who was highly respected in our dressing room. My gut feeling was telling me exactly what he and the rest of the coaching staff felt too,” said Sutter.

With Sakowich moving on from an ‘A’ and former alternate Brett Davis recently dealt to Lethbridge, forwards Zak Smith, Josh Tarzwell and Chris Douglas have been given letters, joining overage forward Cam Hausinger.

Smith will be a full-time alternate, while — for the time being at least — Tarzwell will wear an ‘A’ at home and Douglas will sport a letter on the road.

“We feel that Smitty is someone who can fit into that leadership group now and Dougie and Tarz we think can too,” said Sutter.

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What the leaders have in common is that they are all veterans.

“We need their leadership, we need them to be good players for us,” said Sutter. “We need them to be consistent.”

A lack of consistency has hurt the Rebels in recent games. The Rebels were playing at a reasonably high level heading into the Christmas break but are 2-6-1 since.

“A lot of it has to do with just inconsistency, and that’s throughout our lineup,” said Sutter. “We have to fix that and get back on track.

“There are no easy games for our team, we know that every night is a tough night. But we have to keep ourselves in the fight every night and can’t let games get away from us in third periods like they have been.”

Sutter was referring, at least partly, to outings in Edmonton and Winnipeg.

“Our consistency went the wrong way and our discipline and team game changed,” he said. “That’s where we need our veteran players to lead the way now.

“Moving forward, this is going to be our leadership group for the rest of the year, but it’s not like we don’t have other leaders in the dressing room, because we do. But with them being 19 and 20 years of age, there’s more expected from you than when you were 17 and 18.”

The Rebels are idle until Friday, when they visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Prince Albert Raiders will visit the Centrium the following night.

Notable: Rebels defenceman Christoffer Sedoff will play in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Thursday in Hamilton. In the most recent (midterm) Central Scouting rankings, Sedoff is ranked 50th among North American skaters eligible for the 2020 NHL entry draft and teammate and forward Ben King is ranked 151st.

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