Monday, January 30, 2012

Rebels Finning KidSport Fundraiser


For just the second time in team history, the Rebels will be donning special 'one night only' jerseys in support of a great local cause.

Two years ago, the Rebels and Finning got together to help out Ronald McDonald House here in Red Deer. This time, they are teaming up to raise funds for KidSport.

Saturday night during their home game versus Calgary, the Rebels will wear these new one-time jerseys (as modelled by yours truly in the above pic!) that will be up for silent auction. Up until the end of the first intermission, fans can bid on each player's jersey for the chance to take them home following the game. All proceeds raised through the silent auction will go to the Red Deer chapter of KidSport.

The goal is to raise $20,000 which would help 80 kids (or more) get involved with sports. Find out more about this fantastic cause by visiting www.kidsportreddeer.com

Monday Morning Madhouse

The last thing that the Red Deer Rebels would expect from anyone is sympathy.

But with the ridiculous number of injuries the team has been forced to deal with it's hard not to feel at least a bit sorry for this club.

The latest (re-)addition to the M*A*S*H unit is captain Adam Kambeitz. He took a slash from Tri City's Justin Hamonic late in the first period of Friday's game. The captain tried gutting it out for a couple of shifts in the second period before leaving for good. Turns out Kambeitz will now miss up to six weeks of action. A tough blow to say the least. Here's a quick look at the Rebels current injury woes...

- G Patrik Bartosak - upper body (shoulder) - the 18-year-old from the Czech Republic will soon undergo surgery for the shoulder injury he suffered prior to Christmas

- F Adam Kambeitz - lower body (ankle) - will miss up to six weeks

- D Justin Weller - upper body (wrist) - having undergone multiple surgeries for his broken wrist, the 20-year-old veteran is likely done for the season

- D Devan Fafard - upper body - the 17-year-old blueliner will be out long term

- D Kayle Doetzel - upper body - suffered an injury versus Vancouver and will likely miss three weeks of action

- F Brooks Maxwell - upper body, TBA

Injuries aside... the Rebels need to rally themselves as they still sit on the outside looking in when it comes the WHL playoff picture. They had a chance to pull even with the Wheat Kings on Saturday but came up short, losing 3-2. The Wheaties lead the Rebels by four points for 8th in the East. The Rebels do still have three games at hand. But with a tough week ahead (at Medicine Hat on Tuesday, at Edmonton on Friday, home to Calgary on Saturday) the Rebels need to employ the Al Davis "Just Win, Baby" mentality and take care of their own business.

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Brent Sutter spent the entire NHL all star break here in Red Deer, taking in both Rebels home games this weeks (no, he did not dress up for 80's night). I was lucky enough to sit down with him prior to Saturday's game versus Brandon. You can look for that interview on next week's edition of 'Southside Dodge Rebels This Week.' To check out the latest episode anytime (we tape another one today) visit www.rebelsthisweek.com

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The 12 team field is now set for the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which takes place here in Red Deer at the Enmax Centrium from Feb. 18 - 26.

Heather Nedohin will represent the home province after beating fellow Edmontonian Jesse Kaufman in yesterday's final at the Alberta Scotties in Leduc. It's the first provincial title for Nedohin since 2000. She was the runner-up in both 2009 and 2011.

Here is the full list of teams coming to Red Deer...
Team Canada - Amber Holland (Sask)
Newfoundland and Labrador - Heather Strong
New Brunswick - Andrea Kelly
PEI - Kim Dolan
Nova Scotia - Heather Smith-Dacey
Quebec - Marie-France Larouche
Ontario - Tracy Horgan
Manitoba - Jennifer Jones
Saskatchewan - Michelle Englot
Alberta - Heather Nedohin
BC - Kelly Scott
Territories - Kerry Galusha
New Brunswick - Andrea Kelly

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Things I did not watch on TV yesterday...
- NHL All Star Game
- NFL Pro Bowl
- WWE Royal Rumble

Things I did watch on TV yesterday...
- Family Guy
- Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom

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A big passion of mine is Senior AAA hockey and the Allan Cup. This year's championship is taking place in Lloydminster, SK. The Alberta provincial playdowns bracket (five teams) is now set...

1. Bentley Generals (BYE)

2. Sylvan Lake Admirals
3. Stony Plain Eagles
(Stony can take over the #2 seed with a win over Fort Sask on Tuesday... regardless, the Eagles and Admirals will still meet in the 2 vs 3 series with the winner advancing to the provincial final)

4. Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs
5. Horse Lake Thunder
(the winner of this series will meet the Bentley Generals in the other semi-final)

The Alberta winner will take on the BC winner (Fort St. John or Powell River) for a spot in the Allan Cup.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rally For The Ages

(ok... maybe I went a bit over the top with the headline... or maybe not lol)

It's not just 'that' the Red Deer Rebels won last night... but 'how' they won that could prove to be a launching point for the rest of the season.

Trailing the high flying Tri City Americans 2-0 after two periods of play last night at the Enmax Centrium. That meant they Rebels would need comeback of Herculean proportions to salvage any points and gain ground on Brandon (who lost 6-2 in Edmonton FYI).

John Persson would carry out the first (not necessarily out of 12) task for the Rebels when he got them on the board early in the third period, cutting their deficit to 2-1. It was a skilled goal by a skilled player as Johnny P showed some great hands in tight before tucking the puck past Americans goalie Eric Comrie.

That lit the fuse for the fans in the stands as the thousands of Rebels faithful in attendance had been anxiously waiting for their hometown heroes make a rally.

Next up... Deven Dubyk with a number of outstanding saves to keep the Rebels in it (really, he'd already been doing that through the first two periods). But in the third period Dubyk's highway robberies of both Patrick Holland and Adam Hughesman set the stage another Rebels hero to step up.

Cue Mathew Dumba. With 9:08 remaining in the third period, Dumba broke into the offensive zone for a shot on net, only to be stopped by Comrie. But the fine young defenceman followed up and jammed home his own rebound to tie the game 2-2. And if you thought the crowd was into it after Persson's goal...

The Rebels and Americans then traded scoring chances through the rest of the third period. But after sixty minutes of play and 75 combined shots on net this game was going to overtime.

But not for long...

Not satisfied with just tying this game up, Dumba took it upon himself to score the game winner for the Rebels as well. Just 38 seconds into the extra frame, he roofed a shot high past Comrie.

The Herculean comeback was complete... which for me created two causes for concern... the state of the Enmax Centrium after the raucous crowd lifted the lid... and the state of my left elbow following a rather exuberant fist pump.

The win itself is important, of course. But coming back from being two goals down against one of the best teams in the entire CHL is the kind of thing that will provide this Rebels team with a "we can beat anyone, on any night" mentality.

And they will need to apply that mentality starting tonight in what Jesse Wallin admits is the 'biggest game of the year' for his club. The Brandon Wheat Kings visit the Enmax Centrium two points up on the Rebels for the eighth and final playoff spot. With a win tonight, the Rebels would technically stake claim to the playoff spot due to less games played.

Oh... it's also 80's night tonight... can't wait to see and hear what the evening has in store!

OTHER NOTES...

- Adam Kambeitz is the biggest cause for concern coming out of last night's game. The Rebels captain was slashed late in the first period and went down awkwardly. He gutted out a couple of shifts early in the second period before leaving the game for good. His status for tonight is TBA.

- You can also add defenceman Kayle Doetzel to the Rebels list of injuries. He missed last night's game with an upper body injury he suffered Wednesday night versus Vancouver.

- It really was fun to see the Feser brothers play against each other for the first, and quite possibly only, time ever. Older brother Justin has been quite a leader for the Americans during his four seasons with Tri City. Scott definitely has the potential to do the same with the Rebels. Americans coach Jim Hiller is definitely impressed with the younger Feser!

- Red Deer minor hockey products Derek Ryckman, acquired earlier this season from Lethbridge, and Mitch Topping were also in the line up for the Americans last night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Charles In Charge

The Red Deer Rebels were going to beat the Vancouver Giants. No discussion necessary... the Rebels were going to win. Plain and simple.

Why? Because Charles Inglis said so.

The 19-year-old forward played his best game as a Rebel in leading Red Deer to a 4-2 victory Wednesday night at the Enmax Centrium.

The second period, in particular, was a treat to watch as Inglis torched the Giants for a goal and two assists... and he could have had more. His physical play at both ends of the rink was too much for Vancouver to handle. And his chemistry playing on a line with Tyson Ness and Colten Mayor was quite evident. His 11th goal of the season, and second as a Rebel, invoked memories of Mark Messier coming in on his off-wing and leaning into a sizzling wrist shot. Young Payton Lee had no chance at making the save.

The came could be said for Conner Bleackley's first ever WHL goal. The Rebels' first selection in the 2011 Bantam Draft let loose with a scorching wrister of his own in the second period to join the likes of Alex Petrovic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as players who have scored their first goal while still a 15-year-old. Exciting things await when it comes to this skilled young forward. As Jesse Wallin noted post-game "You put him out there and he looks like he belongs."

The Rebels also received some much appreciated help on the out of town scoreboard when Calgary blasted Brandon 7-2. Red Deer now trails Brandon by four points for the final playoff spot in the east. The Rebels still hold three games at hand.

Next up for the Rebels... a visit from the Tri City Americans Friday night.

OTHER NOTES...

- Mathew Dumba continues to play his best hockey of the season. With two more assists against the Giants, the draft eligible defenceman has 7 points in his last 4 games. He also had a picture perfect hip check early in the third period which brought the crowd to its feet. Unfortunately, it also brought Dumba a minor penalty for tripping.

- With a goal and an assist versus the Giants, Colten Mayor ties Turner Elson for second place in team scoring for the Rebels with 35 points. Elson has 16 goals, Mayor has 14.

- Deven Dubyk was not spectacular, but he was solid in making 29 saves to improve to 8-7-1-1 this season.

- Rebels scratches were Devan Fafard (upper body), Brooks Maxwell (upper), Justin Weller (wrist), Marc Mackenzie (upper) and Patrik Bartosak. Mackenzie looks favourable to return to the Rebels lineup next week.

- 15-year-old goalie Payton Lee suffered his first loss of the season for the Giants in his third game. Jackson Whistle came in for the third period and did not allow a goal against (making one spectacular diving save on Mayor in the final minutes). Starting goaltender Adam Morrison remains out, listed as 'day to day'

- Brendan Gallagher and David Musil both returned to the Giants lineup from their stints on the injured list

Giant game for the Rebels

The Red Deer Rebels kick off three home games in four nights when they host the Vancouver Giants tonight at the Enmax Centrium [game time 7pm. pregame show on The Drive at 6:30pm].

With a win tonight, and some help from the Calgary Hitmen, the Rebels can pull back within four points of Brandon for the final playoff spot in the WHL Eastern Conference while still holding two games at hand. (Brandon beat Kootenay 1-0 last night... which I atrociously neglected to realize during my on-air stories this morning, d'oh!)

The Rebels and Giants have not met yet this season. Vancouver has been battling through a number of injuries, including one to Brendan Gallagher of World Juniors fame (he hasn't played since Jan 13 and has 55 points in just 28 games for the Giants this season), and David Musil (Oilers prospect, Czech world junior defenceman) has not played since Jan 10. Still, the Giants remain in 4th place in the Western Conference (59 points).

Tonight on our broadcast... we'll hear about this weekend's 2nd annual Red Deer Minor Hockey Outdoor Classic Tournament. Co-chair Al Sim fills us in. Sounds like a great time is in store!

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Check out a happy Matt Fraser after the Red Deer native made his NHL debut last night vs. Anaheim... [via twitter @DallasStars] http://pic.twitter.com/4DTF4Rmv

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Starting today in Leduc, 12 teams will battle it out to see who will represent Alberta at next month's Scotties Tournament of Hearts right here in Red Deer. Shannon Kleibrink seeks her second straight Alberta title. Cheryl Bernard is also part of the stellar field. Red Deer's Lindsay Makichuk is playing with Desiree Owen's rink from the Peace region. They play their opening match this morning in Leduc at 9:30.

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This spring can be described as "crunch time" for the Lacombe Athletic Park Association. They have a fundraising goal of $400,000 as they proceed with phase three of construction on their fantastic facility. More details to come soon. In the meantime, check out www.lacombeathleticpark.ca for all the latest.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dumba Taking Flight

Simplicity.

That has been the key to Mathew Dumba's recent offensive success according to Rebels GM and Head Coach Jesse Wallin.

"He's a very passionate guy and he wants to be a difference. But at you move on at this level and beyond, even more so at the next level, sometimes as a defenceman less is more. He's played very assertively but has kept his game simple. He's not trying to rush the puck every time he gets it. He's just getting shots through to the net, making a good first pass, finding the open man."

Dumba has five points, including three goals, in his last three games while continuing to bring the thundering physical presence that has made him a fan favorite and top draft prospect. The 18-year-old admits being cut from Team Canada for the World Juniors took quite a while to get over, but he's finally done just that.

"I played so good at that camp and I knew coming back to the team that I wanted to bring as much back as I could and show that experience. I wanted to make an impact and didn't do that initially. But the slump was good for me in that I worked my way out of it."

Another key to Dumba's offensive surge has been some good chemistry with Turner Elson. They combined for a highlight reel 2-on-0 shorthanded goal versus Prince George last Saturday. Elson finished the game with four points, Dumba with three.

"It started in Brandon when we hooked up for a goal there. It hasn't really stopped yet. It's going good and we'd like to keep it going."

It's safe to say that if the Rebels hope to establish any sort of consistency in their chase for a playoff spot that #24 will play a key role.

The Rebels host the Vancouver Giants at the Enmax Centrium tomorrow night at 7pm.

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So instead of the Boston Bruins being able to enjoy their big moment at the White House with President Obama and the Stanley Cup, all anyone is talking about is Tim Thomas.

The Conn Smythe trophy winning goalie, and only American born player on the Bruins roster, was the only player who did not attend yesterday's ceremony. His reason... "I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People." He added "This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country."

I'm not too sure where I come out on this one. Normally, I am all for players exercising their right to express their opinions and personal beliefs. But part of me feels Thomas is being a bit selfish here. I dunno. What do you think?

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As expected as yesterday's move was, it's still sad for me to know that the Joffrey Reynolds era in Calgary is over. In future years when we look back at #21's time with the Stampeders, the two words that will jump to mind first will be "Class Act." Never did he exemplify that more than this past 2011 season after he was demoted in favour of Jon Cornish. Not once did Reynolds raise a stink about it. He definitely could have, creating big time problems for the Stamps in the process, but he put the team ahead of himself and soldiered on. In due time, he will be enshrined on the Stamepders' Wall of Honour and eventually the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. But for now he deserves the opportunity to continue his career elsewhere.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Morning Musings

Another .500 weekend for the Rebels.

For some teams, this wouldn't be so bad. But the time for moral victories is quickly running out for this team. They trail Brandon by four points for the final playoff spot in the WHL Eastern Conference (Rebels hold two games at hand).

By all accounts, yesterday's effort in a 4-2 loss to the Hitmen in Calgary was fairly solid. Chris Driedger turned aside 41 of 43 shots for the victory. Mathew Dumba scored his 14th of the season for the Rebels while Tyson Ness chipped in with his 12th. Chase Clayton scored two for Calgary, Jimmy Bubnick and Victor Rask (empty netter) added one each.

The Rebels can take solace in the fact they were much better against the Hitmen in this one than they were last Tuesday (5-1 home ice loss). But they came away with no points... which is what every game comes down to from here on in.

A big week starts on Wednesday night when the Vancouver Giants visit the Enmax Centrium, 7pm game time. League leading Tri-City visits on Friday. Brandon is here on Saturday!

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Great news for Red Deer native Matt Fraser! He has been called up by the Dallas Stars after lighting it up in the AHL so far this season. The 21-year-old former Rebel and Kootenay Ice forward has 21 goals and 14 assists in 35 games this season for the Texas Stars. He was also selected to play in the AHL All Star Game. He could make his NHL debut Tuesday night versus Anaheim.

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Another win yesterday for the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Rebels, 3-2 over the Calgary Royals. The Rebs are five points up on the Calgary Flames for first place in the Chrysler (South) Division standings as the league heads into its All-Star Weekend.

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For the first time in six seasons, there will be a new regular season champion in the Chinook Hockey League (Senior AAA). The Bentley Generals were knocked from their five-year perch with a 3-2 loss to the Sylvan Lake Admirals on Friday. The Lloydminster Border Kings (Allan Cup hosts) have wrapped up the regular season crown in their third season in the league. The Admirals look poised to finish third.

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Was great to see a large (and loud) crowd at Red Deer College on Friday night to take in some ACAC volleyball action. The Kings and Queens both looked great in sweeping the SAIT Trojans.

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Do Oilers fire Tom Renney before the end of the season? What is Steve Tambellini's status? Edmonton is in the running to finish dead last for a third straight year.

Do the Flames have a realistic chance of making the playoffs? They sit just two points out of 8th.

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I'm disgusted by some of my fellow 49ers fans who are issuing death threats toward Kyle Williams. Yes, the youngster had an awful day with two costly fumbles in the NFC Championship Game loss to the New York Giants. But they key word here is that it's still just a game! I'd like to think that North American football fans are better than their European soccer counterparts. The fact is that as bad as Williams was on those two plays, the 49ers as a whole simply were not good enough to win. Alex Smith and the offense did not make a single third down conversion through four quarters. Smith completed just one pass to a wide receiver for a paltry three yards. Meantime, Eli Manning stood tall despite being drilled repeatedly by the Niners defense and will get another shot at beating the Patriots in the Superbowl.

Billy Cundiff became the new Ray Finkel with his field goals shank versus New England just moments after Lee Evans dropped what should have been the game winning TD for the Ravens. Both the 49ers and Ravens have long off-seasons of "what if" ahead.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rebels Maul Cougars

Rebels - 5
Cougars - 1
[WHL game summary - http://www.whl.ca/schedule/show/game/59900]

It was good... but it can be better. It needs to be better.

The Red Deer Rebels played well in their 5-1 win last night at the Enmax Centrium over the Prince George Cougars. It was certainly much, much better than what we all saw in their 5-1 loss to Calgary last Tuesday. Safe to say the "extended conditioning work" at practice this week paid immediate dividends.

As good as last night's performance was, it was fairly solid overall, the Rebels need to take their game up another notch as they head into today's game versus the Hitmen [4pm in Calgary, Cam Moon has the broadcast on 106.7 The Drive starting at 3:50].

The Cougars came into last night's game as a beaten and worn down group. They lost Friday night in Calgary 5-1 and were minus the services of six regulars versus the Rebels [a tune tragically familiar for Rebels fans].

Despite this, PG actually controlled the play through much of the first period. They did not score on their opening powerplay but looked dangerous throughout. The Cougars also looked poised to score on their second powerplay of the period until Turner Elson and Mathew Dumba found themselves on a rare shorthanded 2-on-0. They worked it to perfection as Dumba would tap home his 13th goal of the season for a 1-0 Rebels lead. Had the Cougars converted on their powerplay instead of the Rebels scoring shorthanded, this game may have been much different.

There also wasn't much to give between the two teams in the second period until Dumba set up Elson for a powerplay goal late in the frame. The Rebels took a 2-0 lead in to the final period where they would score three more times to seal the deal.

It was a decent effort overall by the Rebels. One that was good enough to beat the ninth place team in the Western Conference [FYI the Rebels 45 points would have them in 5th place in that conference] but whether it would have been good enough to beat a hot team like Calgary is up for debate. The Hitmen come into this afternoon's game winners of 9 of their last 10 games. That includes, of course, their way too easy win in Red Deer just a few days ago.

Back-to-back wins. An absolute necessity for the Rebels as they continue their desperate playoff chase but also something they still have not accomplished since November. A win today puts the Rebels just two points behind Brandon [who lost 7-3 last night to Kootenay] for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Red Deer will have two games at hand after today.

Other Notes...

- Deven Dubyk was oh so close to notching the shutout last night. The Cougars lone goal came early in the third period when Cody Carlson's point shot bounced off of a Rebels player [Colten Mayor we think] and into the net. Otherwise, it was a solid 32 save performance for the 20-year-old netminder.

- This was the first meeting between the Rebels and Cougars since the December 29th Daulton Siwak / Charles Inglis trade. Neither player factored into the scoring last night. There was quite a large contingent of Siwak supporters in the building which I know meant a lot to the 18-year-old Olds, Alberta native.

- Turner Elson was an easy choice as the games first star with two goals and two assists. Dumba was the second star with a goal and two assists. Adam Kambeitz, who chipped in with a goal of his own, was named by Mike Moller as the game's third star.

- 2011 1st rd bantam draft pick Conner Bleackley played in his 4th game with the Rebels last night. With the Rebels wearing their third jerseys last night, Bleackley wore #21 as opposed to #9 which he wore in his previous three appearances. Devan Fafard and Brooks Maxwell were the Rebels' healthy scratches.

- The Rebels could use some help from their divisional rivals this week. Brandon visits Kootenay on Tuesday, Calgary on Wednesday, and Edmonton on Friday before coming to Red Deer to play the Rebels next Saturday [which is 80's night at the Centrium!].

- The Rebels will be donning a special 'one night only' jersey when they host Calgary on February 4th. The team is joining forces with Finning to raise money for Kidsport. More details to come when they are available.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Free-For-All

It's everyone's favorite day of the work week... and it's starting to warm up outside (you may not notice it right away but trust me it's happening)...

The Red Deer Rebels will be doing some scoreboard watching tonight as the Brandon Wheat Kings take on the Saskatoon Blades. The Wheaties are four points up on the Rebels for the final playoff spot in the WHL Eastern Conference (Rebels do have two games at hand).

Last night, a few of the boys ventured out to Blackfalds for the first Enmax Pond Hockey session of the season. Chad Robinson (@RoboCop_17) posted a pic of them getting set to sign autographs for dozens of their young fans.

https://twitter.com/#!/RoboCop_17/status/160197509338234880/photo/1

The Prince George Cougars come calling to the Enmax Centrium tomorrow night. It'll be the first game since the Rebels acquired Charles Inglis from the Cougars in exchange for Daulton Siwak back on December 29th. Puck drop is at 7:30pm (pre-game show on The Drive starts at 7pm) with post-game fireworks to follow.

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You may just see me in Sylvan Lake tonight to watch the Bentley Generals take on the Admirals in Chinook Hockey League action. Should be a great game as they get closer to the end of the regular season. Game time tonight at the Medican Multiplex is at 8:30pm.

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You may also see me at RDC taking in some ACAC volleyball action as the Kings and Queens play host to the SAIT Trojans. Action starts at 6pm (Queens first, Kings to follow). There is basketball action at RDC tomorrow night also starting at 6pm, also vs. SAIT.

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Along with the rest of the sporting world... I'm quite saddened by the tragic loss of Sarah Burke. It's safe to say her legacy will live strong for years to come.

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My heart wants the Ravens and 49ers to win the AFC and NFC championship games this weekend... but my head says the Patriots and Giants will come out victorious. Of the possible Superbowl match-ups, Giants vs. Ravens would be the least interesting (by a landslide)... 49ers vs. Ravens (Harbaugh Bowl) would be fascinating, don't ya think!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Stuff

Twitter offered some obvious clues as to how the Rebels spent their practice on Wednesday...

@JohnPersson21 - Bagger at the rink today with the fellas!

@CharlesInglis - Nothing brings the boys together like a team #bagger

@RoboCop_17 - Good day at rink today #bagger. And good night with some of the fellas #timmies

The Rebels host the Prince George Cougars on Saturday night at the Enmax Centrium. Game time is 7:30.

Last night, the Cougars were blanked 5-0 by Edmonton.

Brandon beat Saskatoon 6-4. That puts the Wheaties six points up on the Rebels for the final playoff spot in the WHL Eastern Conference (Rebels do have two games at hand).

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Prince Albert Raiders forward (and Trochu native) Mike Winther has been added for the CHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game. The 18-year-old forward is ranked #26 amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Winther will play alongside Mathew Dumba for Team Cherry in Kelowna on February 1st.

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I was chatting with Debbie Brigley from the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum the other night. They are still taking nominations for their Class of 2012. Visit www.albertasportshalloffame.com

Also... you can still submit nominations for the 2012 Red Deer Community Sport Awards by visiting www.reddeer.ca

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"WORST GAME OF THE YEAR"

Those are Jesse Wallin's words. Not mine.

Not that there is much to argue... last night's 5-1 Rebels loss to the Calgary Hitmen at the Enmax Centrium was quite possibly their poorest effort of the season.

You could see signs in the first period that the Hitmen were destined for big things. But the Rebels did just enough to hang on and keep the game scoreless through the opening twenty minutes.

Reason for hope came 4:09 into the second period when Mathew Dumba opened the scoring with his 12th of the season. That went up in smoke when Calgary tied the game just 39 seconds later. At 11:29 the Hitmen went ahead 2-1. They added three more goals in the third period to pull away for the win.

One would be wasting their time to try to figure out why the Rebels came out flat last night. The bottom line is that for a team that is supposedly desperate to get back into a playoff spot... the effort was inexcusable.

The Hitmen do deserve kudos for earning their eighth win in a row. But the least the Rebels could have done is made it tough for them to earn. No longer are injuries an excuse.

"Every goal we handed right to them" said Wallin post-game "our forwards were quitting on the backcheck and our defense was getting beat one one one. It was just a lot of soft, soft, soft, soft plays tonight." Not exactly a glowing review.

A few other quick notes...

- kudos to Alex Petrovic and Charles Inglis for coming to the aid of teammates who were checked from behind into the boards last night. The downside the Rebels lost their services for 17 minutes each, Petrovic in the first period and Inglis in the third

- kudos to the brave fans who came out to the Enmax Centrium despite the brutal conditions outside... you weren't necessarily big in numbers but you were big in spirit... keep hanging in there, your team needs you!

- Marc Mackenzie missed last night's game with an upper body injury he suffered Saturday night in Swift Current. He will also miss both games this coming weekend and is officially listed as out 'week to week'

- Thanks to Mooner for letting me sit in his chair while we sorted out some 'technical difficulties' with my booth in the lounge... it could have been a disaster but we pulled it out of the fire just fine!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rebels host Hitmen

I have no problem predicting a Rebels victory tonight.

Why so bold, you ask?

The Rebels have that somewhat peculiar habit some teams get where they play to the level of their opponent. The better the opposition, the better they play. Last weekend is a prime example... the Rebels rose to the occasion (albeit after a slow start) in a win over Brandon before falling flat on their face in Swift Current.

Captain Adam Kambeitz admitted as much yesterday, "We've been struggling against the lower teams but I know that teams ahead of us we always play really well against."

The Rebels certainly are not the first team to suffer from this syndrome... still doesn't make it any less frustrating for fans (and yours truly) to watch.

But here's the thing... the Rebels cannot expect to get away with playing .500 hockey and expect to make the playoffs. With five of their next seven games at home, the time is now for the Rebels to put together some sort of winning streak and get themselves back in the playoff mix.

The seemingly endless amount of injury news continues... Marc Mackenzie is the latest victim. He fell awkwardly into the boards in Swift Current suffering an upper body injury. Mackenzie was taken for x-rays which came back negative. Today, he will be re-evaluated but for the time being he is listed as 'week-to-week' which really sucks for the newly-acquired 18-year-old forward. Mackenzie had settled in nicely on the Rebels third line and was even starting to put up points when he suffered the injury. Let's hope for the best.

As always, you can catch tonight's Rebels / Hitmen game live on 106.7 The Drive (www.1067thedrive.fm) starting with the pregame show at 6:30 and puck drop at 7:00pm.

'THE GREATEST'

"I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."

It should be pretty obvious who the author of this is... and today he celebrates his 70th birthday.

When he rose to prominence in the heavyweight boxing ranks in the early 60's people had little time for Cassius Clay and his antics. The "Louisville Lip" as he was known was brash and confident in a way sports had never seen before. Fans wanted nothing more than to see Clay get his head pounded in before fading off into the sunset.

Cassius would have none of that. His shocking win over Sonny Liston in 1964 (after winning Olympic gold in 1960) followed by his name change to Muhammad Ali set in motion the most talked about and influential career in sports history.

"The Fight of the Century." "Rumble in the Jungle." "Thrilla in Manilla." By now these titles are all forever etched in boxing (and pop culture for that matter) folklore. They come from an era where boxing was much more than a sport, it was an event. The entire world seem to put itself on pause for these monumental occasions.

If his career in the ring had been his only impact on the world, Ali would simply be remembered as a great athlete. But his impact, both during and well after his career, extends well beyond the ring.

His stance against the Vietnam War, which cost him his title and three prime years of his career, was perhaps the first instance in any sport where an athlete stood up for what he believed in while announcing it for the whole world to see...

"No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end."

As popular opinion turned against the war, those who once chastised Ali now applauded him as a beacon for hope and tolerance. Even now in his final years, after years of his body being ravaged by Parkinson's, his mind and spirit remain as strong and free as ever. Ali himself remains standing as a symbol of hope and peace worldwide.

Anyway, that's about enough of my rambling (who does this 31-year-old "kid" think he is lol). Do yourself a favour and look up some Muhammad Ali quotes / interviews / fight footage. You'll see why he is worthy of every tribute he receives on this day.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Morning Musings

Another somewhat fantastic sports weekend is in the books. I had a great time taking in some Chinook Hockey League action on Friday and watching two great days worth of football on TV (which made not having internet at my house this weekend much more bearable)... the benefits of still living a single man's lifestyle in my early 30's :)

- The Red Deer Rebels went into the weekend sitting five points out of a WHL playoff spot. They kept their postseason hopes alive on Friday with a huge 5-4 win over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. It was a massive four-point game that pulled the Rebels within three points of the Wheaties for 8th in the East. The Rebs showed great determination in coming back from a 3-1 first period deficit to get the win. Things didn't go nearly as well on Saturday in a 4-0 loss to the Broncos in Swift Current. The ponies scored just 1:02 into the first period and added three more in the third period for the win. Jon Groenheyde, playing in his 133rd career game, made 25 saves for his first ever WHL shutout. What's worse for the Rebels is they could soon find themselves minus the services of new-acquired forward Marc Mackenzie. He caught an edge and crashed hard into the boards in Swift Current. We'll know more today... but losing Mackenzie would be tough for the Rebels as he had settled nicely into a third line role with the team, bringing a nice mix of toughness and offensive ability. I'll let you know as soon as I hear more. Let's hope for the best. The Calgary Hitmen (finally) make their first visit to the Enmax Centrium to take on the Rebels tomorrow night. Game time 7pm. We'll have the pregame show on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:30pm.

- Friday night, I ventured out to Bentley to take in some Chinook Hockey League action. My only regret with my Rebels gig is that I don't get to watch as many Senior AAA games as I'd like to... it truly is an outstanding calibre of hockey. The Gens beat Fort Saskatchewan 4-2 in the game I was at. It's a dog fight for positioning in the CHL this season. Check out www.chinookhockeyleague.com for the latest standings and for upcoming game dates and times.

- My "6-49" dream remains alive after this weekend. No, I'm not referring to winning the lottery although I'd be quite alright with that. I'm talking about my dream of seeing the San Francisco 49ers win their sixth Superbowl title. What an absolute thriller it was on Saturday as the Niners outscored the high-octane New Orleans Saints 36-32. Alex Smith... yes, Alex Smith... was the late game hero for San Fran in scampering for a 28-yard TD run and then hooking up with Vernon Davis for what will go down in Niners folklore as "The Catch III." You don't want to know just how excited I was after that play! The New York Giants will visit Candlestick Park for what should be an epic NFC Championship game. I wouldn't call the Giants 37-20 win over Green Bay a complete shock. What was surprising was how disjointed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense looked throughout the entire game. They never were able to get on-track while Eli Manning proved (again) that he indeed is an elite NFL quarterback. Elsewhere... Tom Brady and the Patriots ended Tebow Time in a big way and the Ravens won a snoozer over Houston.

- He would never say as much... but you just know Darryl Sutter was 'pleased' after his LA Kings beat Brother Brent and the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Saturday.

- Congrats to Sylvan Lake's Lyndon Rush and teammate Jesse Lumsden for winning a silver medal in two-man bobsled in World Cup action in Germany on Saturday. It's Rush's seventh career World Cup medal and the first for Lumsden

- Jocelyn Peterman and her rink (Brittany Tran, Rebecca Konschuh and Kristine Anderson) won the women's title at the Junior Curling Provincial Championships this weekend in Medicine Hat. They will represent Alberta at the Canadian championships next month in Napanee, Ontario.

That's all I have for now. It'll be another busy day as we tape another episode of 'Southside Dodge Rebels This Week' on a frigidly cold day here in Red Deer. Happy Monday to you all!

TG

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Free-For-All

A few thoughts as we head into another busy and exciting weekend in sports...

- It's no stretch to say the fate of the Red Deer Rebels season could be on the line tonight in Brandon. The Rebels trail the Wheat Kings by five points for the final playoff spot in the WHL Eastern Conference as the two teams get set to battle tonight. A loss would leave the Rebs trailing by seven points, putting them in big time chase mode for the remainder of the regular season. Game time tonight is at 6:30pm Alberta time. Cam Moon is on with the pregame show on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:20.

- Can someone tell me the last time a regular season game was this intriguing for the Calgary Flames? Tomorrow night, they host the Los Angeles Kings at the Scotiabank Saddledome. If the Sutter vs. Sutter storyline wasn't already enough to get the juices flowing, the Flames' re-acquisition of Mike Cammalleri from Montreal certainly helps. Calgary now gets to cheer on a fan favorite from the 08-09 season while at the same time dropping some dead weight in the form of Rene Bourque... good luck with him, Habs.

- Central Alberta hockey fans should take a look at what's going on in the Chinook Hockey League (Senior AAA). The Bentley Generals have had their way with things in recent years, but not this time around. They are in a dogfight for first place. [Allan Cup host] Lloydminster sits 1st with 28 points. The Gens are next with 26. Stony Plain has 23, Fort Saskatchewan 22 and Sylvan Lake 20.

- What a weekend this is going to be for the NFL. As a long suffering 49ers fan, I'm super excited for tomorrow's NFC playoff game versus New Orleans. Despite going 13-3 in the regular season, the niners are the consensus underdog heading into this one. With the amazing season put forth by Drew Brees and Co. this is probably the right call. Regardless, the battle between the Saints explosive offense and the 49ers stout defense will be a treat to watch.

- I'm no Tim Tebow fan... but I strongly dislike the Patriots even more. Yeah, I'll be watching!

- Can the New York Giants pull off the upset in Green Bay... I doubt it.

- Ravens vs. Texans is the 'Meg Griffin' of this weekend's games... no one really cares

- Took my dad and brother to see Larry The Cable Guy and Bill Engvall last night at the Enmax Centrium... a classy family outing to be sure. Larry never ceases to send me to tears with his outrageously funny analogies... "madder than a hunchback in a limbo contest"... Git R Done!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rebels Iced In Shootout

For fans of the Red Deer Rebels, there are two ways to look at last night's 2-1 shootout loss to the Kootenay Ice at the Enmax Centrium.

The good way... the Rebels have now earned points in three straight games.

The bad way... the Reb still haven't won back-to-back games in two full months (Nov. 11 in Kamloops and Nov. 12 in Victoria)

Both goaltenders were sparkling in keeping this a low scoring affair. Deven Dubyk made 29 saves in 65 minutes for Red Deer. Nathan Lieuwen made 34 saves for Kootenay, plus three more in the shootout.

Alex Petrovic was the best skater on the ice by far. Not only did he score his fourth goal of the season for the Rebels, he also had a great scoring chance early in the third period only to be thwarted by Lieuwen. He did manage to blast one past Lieuwen in the dying minutes of the third but rang it off the goal post.

Dylen McKinlay scored for Kootenay in regulation time. Max Reinhart scored the shootout winner with a perfectly executed one-handed 'Forsberg-esque' deke on Dubyk.

Following the game, Rebels GM/HC Jesse Wallin felt his team didn't do a good enough job of generating quality scoring chances. He was especially disappointed with his team's play through much of the second period.

The end result of last night's action is that the Rebels now sit five points behind Brandon for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings were blanked 2-0 last night by Saskatoon so the Rebels were able to close the gap by one point... but it definitely could have been two.

And, wouldn't you know it... the Rebels left Red Deer immediately following last night's game to head to Brandon to battle the Wheaties tomorrow night. The Rebels likely need to win this game in regulation time to have a realistic chance of chasing down a playoff berth. Cam Moon has the broadcast on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:20pm Alberta time. The Rebels visit the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday. Tuesday, they return home to battle the Calgary Hitmen.

NOTABLES...

- Justin Weller told me on-air last night that he will undergo a second surgery on his broken wrist. Weller consulted with a specialist in Calgary yesterday following his initial surgery Saturday night. Justin says he could spend 10-12 weeks in a cast as a result... which unfortunately means his on-ice Rebels career has all but come to an end.

- Mason Burr was the only 'healthy' scratch for the Rebels last night.

- Molson Cup Three Stars for last night's game...
1. Petrovic RD 2. Lieuwen KOOT 3. Dubyk RD

- NHL Central Scouting has released its midterm rankings for the 2012 Entry Draft. Mathew Dumba is 7th among North American skaters. Patrik Bartosak is 10th among North American goaltenders.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Winds, But No Trade Winds

As was widely expected, the Red Deer Rebels were not active on WHL Trade Deadline day. Here are a few quotes from GM and Head Coach Jesse Wallin shortly after the 3pm cut-off...

"It was a busy couple of days but ultimately there was nothing we were able to get done. We talked to every team in the league at some point. But there has to be two willing participants and we just weren't able to get anything done."

"We looked at improving our team, something for this year but also help us down the road as well... listened to different offers... wasn't anything significant enough for us either way."

On Justin Weller's potentially season ending broken wrist "It was definitely a factor in our thinking for sure"

"We feel that we are a playoff calibre team. It's gonna be a challenge but it's a challenge I think this group can take on."

Not really earth shattering stuff by any means. Seeing the Rebels stand pat today should come as no surprise. They already made their impact moves with the acquisitions of Dubyk and Inglis. Simply put, the Rebels coaching staff feels that this group, when healthy and playing to its full potential, is capable of making the playoffs and then making noise once they get there... we shall all find out together.

TG

Rebels - Trade Deadline Day

Though it comes nothing close to spectacle it has turned into in the NHL, trade deadline day in the WHL still brings its share of excitement.

Much of that excitement comes from seeing which teams declare themselves as contenders (often overpaying to make their desired acquisitions) and which teams make it clear they are already looking ahead to next year and beyond.

Monday saw a bit of both with a pair of deals. The Brandon Wheat Kings felt just making the playoffs this season wasn't enough, so they went out and got Kevin Sundher (64 points in 40 games) from the Victoria Royals in exchange for Jordan Fransoo, Dakota Conroy, and their 1st round pick in this year's bantam draft. The moves strengthens an already potent Wheat Kings scoring attack... which is bad news for the Red Deer Rebels as they sit six points back of the Wheaties for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Moose Jaw Warriors, who came in 10th in the January 4 BMO CHL Top 10 Rankings, went out and got Cam Braes from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for a 1st round bantam pick this year AND a 2nd round pick in 2013. An incredibly high price for the Warriors to pay for a 20-year-old forward who they will only have for the remainder of this season. Clearly, the Warriors are 'in it to win it' this year.

As for the Hurricanes, they made out quite well in trading away their captain and arguably their best overall forward. In pulling the trigger on the deal, GM and Head Coach Rich Preston said "This is a move the organization makes with deep mixed emotions; however we feel it is good for Cam in the immediate future to pursue his goals and for the organization to continue to build for the future." The Hurricanes have played some outstanding hockey of late, but they still sit last in the conference standings so the '12 playoffs are out of reach. But they did themselves well with this particular deal.

When it comes to the Red Deer Rebels, it remains to be seen what they might do on deadline day. Personally, I would be surprised to see them do anything as they have already made their big moves for the year (Inglis for Siwak, Dubyk, Fafard for Muller and Pufahl). But, as that over-hyped doll-faced Bieber kid likes to say, "never say never." GM and Head Coach Jesse Wallin told me the Rebels are exploring every option... which could mean anything from "we're actively seeking a trade" to "we're just kicking some tires to see what might happen." So as far as I'm concerned I'll be taking a 'wait and see' approach to today. If something does come down from Rebels head office you can be sure we'll be all over it at 106.7 The Drive and Big 105.

Monday, January 9, 2012

BIG / DRIVE BLOG IS BACK

No one ever accused me of being the fastest kid on the block...

Nearly eight months after taking over the job, I finally remembered to take over this blog! It really is a shame because both of my two most recent predecessors, Marlow Weldon and Andrew Walker, did a great job of sharing Red Deer and Area sports news on here. Now... it is my turn to (try to) do the same.

I'll do my best to be both interesting and informative... but do bear with me as I get this thing warmed up after a long layoff :)

Cheers!

TG