To steal from a line from beloved former NFL Head Coach Dennis Green... "The Rebels are who we thought they were."
So too, for that matter, are the Kamloops Blazers.
In a dominating 4-0 win last night at the Enmax Centrium, the WHL's top team showed the Rebels just how far they have to go in order to reach the league's upper echelon... and, yes, there is a long way to go.
The Rebels did manage to hang in there for the first period, which ended scoreless. This was due, in large part, to the fact that there wasn't much flow to the opening stanza. Lots of stops and starts and choppy play and missed passes by both teams. All considered, this worked in the Rebels favour.
Unfortunately for the home side, Kamloops took flight in the second period. Suddenly, the Blazers weren't missing the same passes they were earlier in the game. Suddenly, their star players started skating circles around Rebels defenders. Suddenly, this game was pretty much over.
Even after goals by Colin Smith and Tim Bozon gave Kamloops a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes, the Rebels still had a slight glimmer of hope heading into the final period.
It wasn't much of a glimmer though. And the Blazers stars shone brighter than the Rebels were capable of matching. Giving Kamloops four... count 'em, four... powerplays in the third period didn't help their cause whatsoever. Yes, the penalty kill has sparkled in recent games (and did in fact hold the Blazers powerplay at bay at 0 for 6) but when you are trying to mount a comeback you can't be wasting time by holding the fort. Discipline continues to be an issue for the Rebels, the WHL's most penalized team (246 PIM in 13 games, nearly 19 minutes per game).
Back to my original point referencing Mr. Green... the Kamloops Blazers are an elite hockey team. The Red Deer Rebels are not an elite hockey team.
So, when you hear both the Head Coach (Wallin) and Captain (Elson) speak postgame about how the Rebels played soft and were unprepared... that raises some red flags. It is simply unacceptable.
JC Lipon is the reigning two-time WHL Player of the Week and CHL scoring leader. Colin Smith is second in league scoring. Tim Bozon seventh. All three had their way in this one.
The Rebels knew who they were up against and they let them off the hook.
NOTE... The Kamloops Blazers today have taken over top spot in the CHL Mastercard Top Ten rankings.
My colleague Wally over at Rebel Rebellion can rest easy knowing that he indeed is not the only one with concerns regarding Jan Bittner. For a while now (including in my blog article from October 10th) I've been proposing the idea of him taking a seat in the press box for a game or two. Yet again last night, Bittner was guilty of coughing the puck up in his own zone resulting in a scoring chance for the opposition. It seemingly is happening on a nightly basis for the Czech defender. Is he simply having difficulty making the transition to North American hockey? Not sure. But a taking in a game from the gondola, while also giving either Cody Thiel or Ryley Boomgaarden a chance to show where they are at in terms of their progress, certainly can't hurt either Bittner or the Rebels at this point.
For his part, Bolton Pouliot turned in another solid performance for the Rebels last night. Aside from mishandling a point shot which allowed Chase Suoto to score off of the rebound, it would be difficult to fault Pouliot for any of the goals scored by the Blazers. Bolton was given the mercy pull and Patrik Bartosak, back on the roster after serving his team suspension, played the final 11 minutes in mop up duty.
It will be interesting to see how Colten Mayor performs when (or if, I suppose) he returns to the Rebels lineup. Mayor (3 goals, 0 assists in 11 games) has been a healthy scratch in recent games while Austin Ferguson gets a chance to audition for his new club. Mayor hasn't been horrible this season, but if he plays with some fueled up fire in his belly when he steps back on the ice it could be a very good thing for the Rebels.
The rosters for Team Alberta and Team BC have been announced for the 2012 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, November 1-4 in Calgary. Six Rebels prospects were named...
TEAM ALBERTA (Head Coach, Bryce Thoma)
D - Austin Strand
F - Grayson Pawlenchuk
F - Brayden Burke
F - Mason McCarty
G - Taz Burman
F - Adam Musil
Rebels prospect Forward Meyer Nell was also named to Team Manitoba earlier this month. No Rebels prospects were named to Team Saskatchewan's roster.