It just seems wrong that the Red Deer Rebels and Calgary Hitmen have gone nearly a full decade without meeting in the playoffs. (not nearly as bad as the Oilers / Flames playoff drought, but still…)
During the Rebels “glory
days” a yearly postseason date with the Hitmen was pretty much set
in stone. In the six seasons between 1999 and 2004 they met in the
playoffs four times…
1999 – Hitmen swept the Rebels 4-0
in the second round on their way to winning the WHL Championship
2001 – Rebels beat the Hitmen four games to two in second round
in their way to winning the Memorial Cup
2003 – Rebels beat the
Hitmen four games to one in the opening round on their way to winning
the Eastern Conference
2004 – Rebels beat the Hitmen four games
to three in the opening round
Of course, much has changed with
these two franchises since those playoff series. The only real
carryover from then to now is that Brent Sutter is the man behind the
Rebels bench… albeit after a five year NHL hiatus.
what more could fans of either team ask for? With the two rinks
being less than two hours apart, you can be darn sure there will be
dozens of fans logging plenty of time on the QE2 Highway to take in
all four (plus) games of the series. Heck, even yours truly will be
making the trek to the Saddledome for games one and two (hijacking
Mooner’s broadcast to provide some colour commentary in the
In breaking down this series… one has to think
that the key matchup will between the Rebels defenders and Hitmen
forwards… and the Rebels need not look far when it comes to who
they have to shut down first and foremost.
was a stone cold “Rebels killer” during the regular season,
piling up 9 points in 6 games. Seemingly every time Calgary needed a
big play against the Rebels it Sylvester coming through for them.
He’s off to a solid start in the playoffs as well with five points
in five games. If the Rebels have any hope of winning this series,
they absolutely must limit the amount of damage Sylvester
Victor Rask is a player the Hitmen weren’t
necessarily planning on having this season but boy were they glad to
get him. After starting the season in the AHL with the Carolina
Checkers, Rask returned to Calgary and posted 41 points in 37 games.
Rask led the Hitmen in playoff scoring versus the Broncos with 7
points in 5 games. If the Rebels don’t find a way to contain
Victor it will be “at their own Rask.”
Brooks Macek (80
regular season points) and Brady Brassart (78) add even more
impressive fire power to the Hitmen scoring attack.
player who no doubt wants to have a big series for the Hitmen is
Colten Mayor. It’s been quite an eventful season for the St.
Albert native, being traded twice will do that, but he has settled in
quite nicely in Calgary. The former Rebel started Calgary’s first
round series versus Swift Current playing on the fourth line but was
quickly bumped up into their top thanks to some solid play.
just don’t want to think about it too much,” Mayor told
hitmenhockey.com when asked about playing against his former team in
the playoffs. “I’m not going to put too much pressure on me to
change anything, I just want to play my game and pretend it’s like
any other game.”
If there is an area where the Rebels appear
to have a definitive edge it is special teams. The penalty killing,
as we have come to expect, was splendid against Prince Albert in
round one. 18/19 is pretty darn impressive no matter how you look at
it (Edmonton was 21/21 versus Kootenay, Kelowna is 24/24 so far
versus Seattle). Granted, the Raiders had one of the WHL’s worst
powerplay units in the regular season. But they do have enough
talent to step up and score timely goals at any given time. The
Rebels pk is fully deserving of the kudos they receive.
being said… the Hitmen are not the Raiders. The hired guns I
talked about earlier are not a group to be taken likely at the best
of times. Handing them powerplay chances is not exactly recommended.
And while their play on the man advantage hasn’t been particularly
exceptional, Calgary’s powerplay was ranked 12th in the regular
season and was just 2/13 versus Swift Current, the odds of the Rebels
killing 7 out of 7 penalties like they did in game one versus PA
aren’t that great. You don’t want to play with fire against this
For the Rebels, the keys to success are painfully
obvious. Patrik Bartosak needs to continue with his stellar play
between the pipes. Turner Elson needs to continue playing his best
hockey as a Rebel (can’t seem to remember playing better in Red
Deer silks at any point). Rhyse Dieno needs to continue being the
spark plug for the Rebels scoring attack. Secondary scoring would be
a help, as it was when the likes of Cody Thiel were chipping in with
goals versus the Raiders. And, the Rebels blueliners need to be
steady, not spectacular, just steady. The Hitmen are big, so the
Rebels need to be ready for a series of hard hitting games and I’m
sure they will.
However this series turns out in the end it’s
gonna be a lot of fun to watch.