The coach and general manager of the Red Deer Rebels was blunt in his assessment of the Rebels’ 3-1 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers in Western Hockey League pre-season play Saturday night in Stettler.
“Overall, I think, if there’s one word to sum up our game, it would be soft,” Jesse Wallin said. “We’ve got some work to do this week.”
The Rebels begin their regular season this Friday night at home to the defending WHL champions, the Kootenay Ice.
Before he left the Stettler Recreation Centre on Saturday night, Wallin reasoned that the Rebels’ sub-par effort in their final pre-season game might spark the team this week.
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” he told reporters.
“It’s a good wake-up call. Guys were feeling good about their game last night (a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings in Lacombe). A similar thing happened last weekend — we played a real good game on Friday and came out Saturday thinking it was going to be easy. And it doesn’t work that way in this league.”
“It might be a good message to hammer in, going into this week, to get prepared. It was a humbling evening, to say the least.”
The game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, as the Tigers outshot the Rebels 46-10. Medicine Hat scored three third-period goals after Colten Mayor tallied for the Rebels with a one-timer shot from a difficult angle during a first-period power play.
The Stettler visit has become a popular stop on the Rebels’ pre-season tour.
With the rink near full, it was a boost for the local minor hockey association and a chance for WHL fans in the area to see major junior action close to home.
Wallin, however, advised fans that the Rebels promise to be a more committed and competitive team than Saturday’s effort — or lack thereof — showed.
“I don’t think what you saw on the ice tonight certainly isn’t reflective of the Red Deer Rebels and the team we feel we have,” he said. “I’m disappointed in the showing that we brought here, but we do enjoy coming out here.”
“We’ve been coming here for a number of years. There’s a number of season-ticket holders in this area. A big part of our fan base is out here, so it’s great to be able to come out and help out with some fundraising and give back that way.”
Former Stettler minor hockey player Scott Feser, a 16-year-old forward who now calls Red Deer home, was with the Rebels through the pre-season. But he was cut earlier Saturday and assigned to the Red Deer Optimist Rebels midget AAA team.
“He went back to midget AAA, but he had a real good camp with us,” Wallin said of Feser. “He’s come a long way in a year and we certainly see him being a part of our future, but as a 16-year-old player, he just wasn’t quite there at the level of some of the 17-year-olds.
“The biggest thing is he needs to play. Could he have played here this year? Possibly, as a 13th, 14th guy (at forward), but he’s going to play a big role on a good midget team in Red Deer this year and be in a similar situation to a guy like Marc McCoy last year.
“I think the best thing for (Feser) is to go and continue to develop and get stronger and quicker, and come in next year and be ready to be an impact guy.”
Feser’s new teammates with the Rebels midget AAA team include rookie centre Ty Mappin of Big Valley.
Mappin, a first-round pick of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, made his midget AAA debut last week as the Optimist Rebels competed in a pre-season tournament at Strathmore.