Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Hope

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

Cheesy Star Wars reference?  Absolutely. 

Applicable to the Red Deer Rebels?  Absolutely.

The Rebels are making it very clear that the disastrous, injury-riddled 2012-2013 season is now a thing of the past... the very distant past... and that this is their time to 'strike back!' (insert lightsaber sound effect here)

The number of man games lost by the Rebels to injury last season (somewhere north of 300) was insane, ridiculous, unfathomable, incomprehensible, inconceivable, not fair.  Use whatever words you want, it just wasn't good.  And more than just the number of injuries, the fact that they affected impact players was the real killer.

"Last season is over and done with," proclaimed Rebels GM and Head Coach Jesse Wallin during his annual preseason media luncheon on Thursday [which you can view in its entirety by visiting REBELS THIS WEEK].

"It was a disappointing season.  We just seemed to go through so much adversity and the injuries really took a toll... mentally, as much as anything... on the players, coaching staff, and fans."

But in sticking with our theme for today... all of that is over and done with.  The brand new season of Red Deer Rebels hockey, the 21st season of play for the franchise, is now here.

"It's behind us now and it's about moving forward," said Wallin.  "What really excites me is just the opportunity to get going again.  It's been a long off-season."

For the Rebels to move onward and upward, they will be counting on bounce back performances from a number of last year's key players who spent much of the season in the infirmary... starting between the pipes with Patrik Bartosak.

The 18-year-old goaltender, who suffered a season ending shoulder injury last December, arrived in Red Deer on Wednesday (along with fellow Czech Republic natives Jan Bittner and Adam Musil).  We've had an indication that he's been at 100-percent for a while now.  Bartosak took part in the NHL Combine prior to June's entry draft.  He also saw plenty of ice time this summer with the Czech national junior program.

All other key returnees who were hurt last season (including Kambeitz, Elson, Doetzel) are ready to go.  Joel Hamilton, who missed the final six weeks with a severe back injury, is also back to full strength and ready to go.

"Hamilton was the player we were most concerned about," said Wallin.  "But he's been skating and he feels good.

So that gets us up to speed when it comes to returning players.  But what about the newcomers?  Who has a chance to step up and give the veterans a run for their money.  Here are a few I'll have my eye on during training camp...

HAYDN FLEURY ('96, D) - Fleury was one of the players who got an early audition last year.  Hopes are high that Fleury can step into to a full time top eight slot along the blue line.  Chatting with Randy Peterson (Rebels Dir. Scouting & Player Development, Sask) at last spring's prospects camp, he is among those excited about Fleury's potential.

VUKIE MPOFU ('96, D) - Those of you who were following this blog during the 2012 Telus Cup know how I feel about Mpofu.  Vukie seemingly never left the ice for the Saskatoon Contacts and was a force at both ends of the rink.  His size works against him (listed on at 5'9" and 141lbs.) but his speed and awareness make him worth watching.

GRANT NAHERNIAK (96, G) - It's no secret that the Rebels appear to be set between the pipes with the duo of Bartosak/Pouliot.  But Naherniak represents the future for Rebels goaltending and will no doubt put forth a solid showing at camp.  Should either Bartosak/Pouliot stumble or succumb to injury we could be seeing Naherniak in Red Deer silks sooner than later.

CONNER BLEACKLEY ('96, F) - Bleackley is a lock to make the regular season roster.  But what will make him a guy to watch during camp is his (much needed) improved conditioning and his improved confidence (had a solid showing at spring prospects camp).

ADAM MUSIL ('97, F) - I'm looking forward to seeing Musil at camp not because he has a chance to make the team (which, as a 15-year-old, he doesn't) but because it will be our first real chance to see in person just how skilled he is.  Musil did take part in spring prospects camp, but an broken hand limited his participation to mostly skating and conditioning drills.  Wallin says his plan is to keep Musil around for all of camp and play him in two preseason games before returning him to Midget AAA in Burnaby.

Those are just a few of the players I'm looking forward to seeing on the ice during training camp.  Feel free to also check out Rebel Rebellion as Wally goes deep with his player-by-player analysis.  The complete training camp schedule is as follows...

Saturday, August 25

7:30 – 9:00 pm                Rookies

Sunday, August 26

9:00 – 10:30 am              Rookies

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm          Goalie Session - Rookies

3:00 – 4:30 pm                Rookies

Monday, August 27

9:00 – 10:30 am              Rookies

1:00 - 2:00 pm                 Goalie session – Rookies

2:00 pm                           Registration – Main

3:00 – 4:30 pm                Rookies

5:00 – 6:30 pm                Main (Scrimmage)

Tuesday, August 28

10:00 – 11:30 am             Main (Scrimmage)

5:00 – 6:30 pm                Main (Scrimmage)

Wednesday, August 29

10:30 – 11:15 am             Pre-game skate – Team B

11:30 – 12:15 pm            Pre-game skate – Team A

7:00 pm                          Black & White Game

**All Times Are Subject To Change**


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